Thursday, December 1, 2011

let there be light

A farmer and amateur photographer in Canada is in love with firefly light. He has tried to capture it using traditional methods of slow shutter speeds and excellent equipment, much like an astrophotographer who sits for hours capturing the light from distant stars through his telescope. However, his first attempts didn’t really leave him with the right impression, so he wracked his brain for another method. 

Now, during those weeks of summer when thousands of fireflies come out from their burrows in his fields, he lies in the grass for hours alongside huge pieces of photographic paper on dark nights and watches as the fireflies expose the paper dot by dot, impression by impression. The results are fascinating and beautiful. We can only imagine that they look like photographs of the night sky.

Light is not only beautiful, but also very informative. Physicists have identified the composition of every planet in our solar system by the nature of the light each emits. Different elements, when heated, give off different colors within the known spectrum. Sulfur, magnesium, cadmium, copper, methane, carbon; their light quite literally identifies them. Any good potter knows exactly what happens to the elements of their glazes when fired in the kiln. Color is chemistry. So in December as you celebrate with sketches of light on bare branches, on laurel wreaths, or on swaths of pine and cedar, remember the fireflies. As you set your holiday tables and admire the colors of your favorite plates in candlelight, remember the planets. Color and light are both inspiration and identity.