Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A MOMENT ON MARS


I can't remember what the latest scientific thinking is regarding the presence of water on  Mars…but I'm pretty sure no scientist claims rivers as one of the Red Planet's geographic features. If that were the case, however, what you see in these photos might be a pretty fair representation. 

For some time, I've been trying to make a good photo of the great blue heron which regularly comes sailing downstream as twilight deepens. The big bird is always moving fast and generally flying low—twenty feet or so above the water. As I said, it is usually all but dark, and the distance is too great for flash. Sometimes, though, the heron comes along a bit earlier, when there's just enough remaining light for the shot. Alternately, there are evenings when the bird flies closer to the deck—making the use of flash a possibility—or higher than the twenty-foot norm, giving me the opportunity for a neat silhouette against a sunset-colored western sky.

So far, the bird wily has either passed too late, or else I've failed to get the flash-lit or high-silhouette shot. But persistence and blind luck can often make up for lack of equipment and photographic talent…so I keep at it, waiting patiently on the deck for that cosmic moment when everything goes right, I make the shot, and afterwards stick it up on this blog and claim it was "nothing special, just an ol' blue heron in the twilight."


I'm embarrassed to say in my haste to grab my camera and dash to the deck on the evening I made these exposures, I didn't even look out the window beforehand on my way to the door. But when I stepped on the deck, the impact of the orange-red light stopped me in my tracks. I don't think I've ever seen natural light so intensely colored. Everything was simply bathed in the same hue—water, trees, rocks. The images you see are exactly how it looked—though there was an overall radiance that no digital image can capture. It was so unworldly looking that my first thought was—this could be an evening on Mars.    


The reason for the coloration was simply a precisely positioned cloud which was apparently acting as a sort of prism, filtering out all the blue-green wavelengths. The intense reddish color lasted only a few moments. The sun sank lower in the west, the angle of light streaming into the cloud changed…and the effect quickly faded. But the moment was awesome. 

When Bonnie, over at Original Art Studio, asked as part of the interview she did with me, about my relationship with light, I immediately thought about this and other such crepuscular moments—when light becomes magic, the familiar turns extraordinary, and once again you're delightfully and unexpectedly spellbound by beauty. 
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18 comments:

Bonnie said...

Ah the magic and delight of capturing such a rare moment. The effects of that momentary prism are extraordinary and other-worldly as you suggest.

I always feel en-light-ened (in every possible sense of the word) when I come here.

I supose we should thank that wily heron for luring you out for a moment on Mars!

Paul C said...

When the familiar turns extraordinary...your photos and explanation of light are wonderful.

ellen abbott said...

Oh, I know what you mean. I've never seen the red light but I have seen evenings when the light was pink and everything glowed pinkly. And on occasion, yellow.

I hope you get the shot of the great blue. they are one of my favorite birds especially back when I was doing the river guide thing. We would come along in our canoes, pushing them down river a bit at a time until they would reach the end of their territory when they would fly up and over us heading back upstream.

Scott said...

We had an absolutely spectacular sunset last evening--and I didn't have my camera. The best part was that the sky was neon shades of pink and purple, and just the very upper branches of a few trees in the foreground that still held their leaves were sparkling like golden metallic tinsel. I've seen the late autumn sky like that before, but I've never experienced the added joy of the shimmering leaves.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

Light is often enlightening. (Okay, that was bad…true, but bad.) But the fact is, I never cease to be amazed—and often simply wowed speechless—by light and what it does.

One of these days, watch at least the opening half-hour of Steven Spielberg's movie, E.T. It is almost entirely shot in backlight, sidelight, etc. Only a few scenes employ standard frontal lighting. And the effects of this decision are extremely contributory to the film overall. Spielberg is a master of light and lighting.

In outdoor photography, Galen Rowell was a master at finding landscapes lit by extraordinary light. His books are filled with photos which almost defy belief…and all because of their light.

Grizz………… said...

Paul C…

Thank you. As much as I'd like to take credit, it is always the light that's extraordinary—I simply point and press the shutter.

Grizz………… said...

Ellen…

Yes, I've seen those pink and yellow moments, too, and they are indeed beautiful. I've also seen a weird green light preceding severe storms, tornados especially. And this isn't the first red twilight I've witnessed…but it was by far the most intense in overall coloration.

I have a lot of herons here. In the winter, I can look up and down stream and sometimes count a dozen from the deck. The heron in my header is standing in the riffle in front of the cottage. They are cranky, noisy birds and surprising insomniacs—squawking throughout the night at the slightest movement or rustle in the underbrush.

Grizz………… said...

Scott…

I actually don't get to see most of the spectacular local sunsets. Here on the river, we're tucked low, behind the low hills, and the neatest western skies are often hidden. Often Myladlove calls and asks if I'm looking at that great sunset. I run and look west…nothing. Maybe a hint of sky color, but that's all. I'd say I see maybe one-in ten or fifteen sunsets visible from a higher elevation.

You know, I don't know I've ever seen a sunset like you describe with the shimmering leaves. It must have been lovely.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ_
I love your delight and surprise at natural happenings. There is a child-like innocence to such wonder :-) Your pictures are amazing.
We made our lasagna to bring to Mom's dinner b'day dinner as well as honoring my sister's son's passing - my Mom is having a rough day - say a prayer that as we gather later that the love that will surround her will lift her up.
Love to you
Gail
peace.....

George said...

Lovely images, Grizz! Nature is never boring, is it? Just when you think you have a fix on what things are going to look like next, nature whips up something new, reminding us always of the problems of conditioned thinking.

I fully expect to see these photos posted somewhere else on the internet by the latest amateur scientist claiming to have proof that there is life on mars. I hope you can at least arrange for royalties.

Bernie said...

Your post reminds me of an evening several years ago when we were on a ferry, crossing from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, the sun was setting and the sky was filled with pink and greys and it was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen....I have never forgotten it as it was so amazing....thank you for the memory.....:-) Hugs

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

We've been out running around all afternoon, so this reply is a bit late…but I trust your dinner goes well. A prayer was said, BTW. Tell your Mom happy birthday!

Re. the post and pix, I hope I never lose a child-like wonder for such things. It's so easy to become jaded, and thence to the point where nothing moves you anymore. I wouldn't want to live like that.

Grizz………… said...

George…

Such moments remind us that there's still room for wonder. I've spent a lot of time outdoors over the years…and yet, seldom a week goes past that I'm not astounded by some spectacular new sight. The path is circular and familiar, but also endless and ever-changing.

You're the legal practitioner—what do you say the chances a backyard star snoop who filched my photos would have anything worth collecting on?

Grizz………… said...

Bernie…

Every so often we're blessed with such spectacular skies—like a gift to carry in our memories for the rest of our life. I'll bet that sky of yours was really something to behold, with the water sparkling and foaming all around, up there along that part of the coast , which is beautiful on even the grayest, rain-filled day.

I'm glad I reminded you, and that you shared that memory.

Dejemonos sorprender said...

Nice pictures.. the colors are great..

Grizz………… said...

Dejemonos…

Thank you. You have some lovely shots on your blog. I hope you enjoyed your visit here…you're always welcome.

Val said...

how incredible - i was waiting for you to fess up to using a filter - wow! magical and a million times more beautiful than mars i feel sure :) I am so enjoying exploring your blog.

Grizz………… said...

Val…

Nope, no filter or post-exposure color manipulation (maybe a bit of cropping and/or sharpening, I don't remember offhand). Even neater, just a couple of evening ago, almost the same thing occurred, though this time there was a little less orange and a bit more pink. But some of the strangest colored twilight I've ever witnessed.

Glad to know you're having fun exploring the blog. Poke around all you like. I'm always pleased when someone visits one of my older "children." :-D