Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Night Outside My Window

There is a strip mall west of where I live. A few months ago the business owners erected a new spotlight that shines on the facade of the buildings twenty-four hours a day. The light makes it hard for me to get a good view of the western horizon after sunset, but bright lights are almost always pretty if you look at them with the right frame of mind.

Here is one view of the night outside my window:

I don’t like to give titles to things like this, but if somebody made me give a title I guess I’d call this “An Improvisation In Green.”

There is green, but the other colors appear, too.

I love simple, almost accidental, stuff like this. I can imagine writing a story about this, or poetry, or music. And it is almost, but isn’t quite, abstract.

The improvisation part is because this is all pretty random. I just stood at my window and let my point-and-shoot camera pick its own settings. (That’s not completely true. The only input I gave was to select the streetlights on the far left for the automatic-focus control point, then I half-depressed the shutter button to activate the internal electronics before I physically moved the framing slightly right to encompass the spotlight.)

Then I opened the image in a very simple photo-manipulation program—Microsoft Office Picture Manager. But instead of adjusting the parameters to achieve something like a “real” rendering of the actual visual scene, I just had fun and pushed various levels to one extreme or another until something ‘looked pretty.’ Here is what the value settings looked like.

That’s all pretty silly, but I wanted to create a rich dark backdrop for the bright colors. I actually didn’t change the saturation controls much at all. When the value levels hit extremes like this it sort of enhances the hues just by itself.

I like images like this—the spaces, the tensions, the contrasts, the harmonies.

I’m not sure what is the psychology involved, but I wouldn’t be able to paint something like this even though I would have more control over the very dynamic elements that are so much fun. I’d guess it is something about self-confidence and experience and being relaxed. I have no self-confidence about anything, I have little real experience with anything, and I’m not relaxed at all about anything.

But I’ve played with photography for a long time, so I suppose that other than writing it is the only activity I can be almost a little relaxed about.

So this evening I played with the night a little bit.

(I once saw a video of the beautiful Nancy Wilson, from Heart, making faces while hair stylists and makeup artists and costume designers glammed her up for a photo shoot. She looked at the camera and shook her head, and said, “It’s all fake. All fake. Totally fake.” But it wasn’t really all fake. Just reality, a little glammed up.)

This is what the real night outside my window looked like before I slathered on the glamour for a fun composition:

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