Morning Light: a photo challenge in a time of pandemic

Recently a friend asked if I would accompany her on a sunrise photo shoot. As this is something I’d love to do, I said yes. I know that many of my better images were taken in the early daylight, and I know I should get out and shoot more. The invitation is an incentive. I begin to think of places to go – places where I imagine creative aspects of shooting into the sunlight, and imagining turning away from the sun, I try to identify landscapes and cityscape surfaces that would be set aglow by morning’s light. I remember too, those rare occasions when I’ve headed out before dawn to locations that didn’t work out – locations to which I should have returned in the evening hour. I remember one occasion in particular when I had gone to a favourite location and happened to meet a fellow photographer. We chatted as we faced the rising sun. Suddenly he turned 180. “Whoa, look at that!,” he exclaimed, raising his camera and starting to compose. The light as it struck the trees along the river back was a revelation. I would have missed it if he hadn’t turned. Golden hour lesson # 1: Learning to see means looking both ways; it means seeing the light and recognizing the gifts it bestows upon its recipients.

Aware as I am of the need to maintain physical distance, it really hasn’t sunk in that my friend and I can’t travel together in my small car. (What better source of consciousness raising and risk assessment than the voice of a spouse.) I have to admit that since the advent of the pandemic, I haven’t been motivated to get out with a camera. One of my favourite nearby locations is the national park which is currently closed, as are so many others. My mindset has been one of shutdown. Think shutdown with a capital ‘S’; I’ve become institutionalized to lock-down and self-imposed house arrest.

With my younger friend’s invitation, the veil begins to lift. I think of places within walking distance of her house. I check The Photographer’s Ephemeris app to determine the direction of sunrise relative to nearby bodies of water and shorelines and unobstructed elevations. Perhaps doable, I would want to scout the locations and the light in advance.

Time to be honest, I am a person for whom the grass is always greener elsewhere, or, in this case, the light is always better a mile down the road. I’ve spent hours chasing light, or rather, chasing my imagination of how the wonderful light of the moment might appear just over the hills ahead, chasing it until it disappears into twilight. One of my personal challenges is to slow down, to still a hyperactive mind, and to allow myself to take in the environment. I think that for many of us COVID has given us an opportunity to do just that—to take in the environment, not only the physical one, but our mental and spiritual environments as well. To appreciate what we have and to consider the implications; to see the light and to recognized the gifts it bestows upon us. While imagining dawn’s early possibilities at places like Tracadie Harbour, it occurs to me that I might consider the quality of the light as it enters my house.

It’s reputed to be Spring, although the only evidence we have for it are the blooming daffodils in our yard. I brought a few of them in and stuck them in a vase. A subject to point a camera at. Laying in bed one morning, I was struck by the quality of light coming in through an upstairs window. I ran downstairs, grabbed the vase of flowers and my camera and came back up and put the daffodils into the stream of light. I was immediately impressed by the luminosity of the flowers. The light seemed to emanate from them. Each was a small sun; each glowed and I wanted to capture the glow. Later I explored that luminosity in black and white. The light that was in my house.

Whether the images are successful is not the point here, rather it’s the acceptance of the challenge: To see the quality of morning’s light as it enters our house.