For those expecting a piece about the unbearable pain of unrequited love, or the emotionally charged album recorded by Carly Simon as the end of her marriage to James Taylor loomed into view, I’m sorry. I could easily turn my hand to either task but this is a tale of lost light not lost love.
I have for some time been thinking about painting with light, a technique for taking photographs in darkness, where the illumination is provided not by fixed lights, or strobe flashes, but instead by nothing more than a simple torch, or flashlight. Truly skilled exponents of the art create images where the light they provide becomes the subject of the image; whirling coloured LEDs, balls of burning steel wool that send showers of sparks along their flight path, or rope lights creating discs of brightness and colour. For me this was experimentation at the novice level; the simple torch.
Even this method can be used to create interesting shots for the play of light during a long exposure may be used directionally to emphasise contours, or selectively highlight points of interest whether on architecture, still life, or even portrait.
I had it in mind to shoot a piece of sculpture on the banks of the Wear just after the sun had set, exposing for deep indigo skies and picking out the head of the bronze bull with its great sweeping horns, perhaps leaving the rest as dark silhouette against the violet heavens. Those heavens had other ideas.
As they began to darken I set off towards my bovine objective, curious as to what I might achieve and expectant of some interesting imagery. My hopes were to have cold water poured over them however. Quite literally for the gathering darkness was not a product of the setting sun, but of dense grey rainclouds. I was some 30 or 40 minutes too early for sunset and there was no chance of cobalt backdrop.
I might have waited, but a rain was falling that matched the density of its progenitors. I might have taken some detail shots of the rivulets upon the beast’s head, but this was no time to be changing lenses, so tried to salvage the shoot by using a narrow aperture to produce the darkness I craved, before realising the further difficulty that the torch I had was woefully inadequate in both power and focus. I wasn’t equipped for the challenge. The torch was too simple.
I wasn’t giving up without a fight though. Returning home I found darkness and a willing accomplice in Lord Shiva, who was willing to relinquish his usual vantage point above my iMac to model for me. The torch was still too diffuse in its beam, but nevertheless I was able to create some side lighting quite easily that demonstrated how the technique might work. Nothing more to be done now but to bang on some Carly Simon and reflect on missed opportunity!