Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Breath of Lavender

Last week I left some samples of my work at a gallery up in Edmonds, and a day or two later I heard from the owner, who loved my work but needed to know if any of it had been "in any way digitally enhanced," because the gallery had a rule against showing anything that had been digitally altered.

In response I went through all of the images I had left for her, explaining what had been done with each. Most had been lightened in order for my printer to produce what I saw on the screen; some had been desaturated to black and white because my camera only shoots color; for some I'd applied the equivalent of a digital polarizing filter because I don't have one that fits my digital lens.

I did none of those things for this image, which is probably my favorite of all the boat photos I've taken over the years. But what drew me to take the shot in the first place was the faint purplish tinge on the sides that heralds the imminence of dawn, and that tinge was missing when the photo left the camera and entered my computer.

So I put it back in; just a breath of palest lavender on the right side, right where the sun was beginning to hit.

Is that faint brushing -- or are any of the other techniques I mentioned -- digital alteration? You bet. Do traditional film photographers try similar tricks in the darkroom? You bet. Is this post another entry into the ongoing battle between film and digital aficionadoes?

Nope. No way.

Because whether this is digital or not, or altered or not; whether I get into that gallery or not... these are all questions whose answers might be completely different or even irrelevant in another time and place. I want to ask instead, what are the timeless, eternal questions which arise as a result of this image? What does it say about the journey, about dawn or beginnings, about dusk and endings, about age and beauty, about hope, hard work, or rest; about color and form?

And perhaps most importantly, what does this image say about light? Because this boat, in full daylight, is just a white boat sitting in a gray bay. How is it that at times of transition the colors are so much richer? And why is that color, just the faint wisp of it, so inviting, so... tender?

I'm sure the physics of it could provide a useful answer, but for now I say with John Mayer in his song, Gravity --

Just keep me in the light,
keep me in the light,
keep me in the light.

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