Thursday, November 18, 2021

All of the Particles of Light

To be brief, my camera is too good. It's an iPhone 12. I am lucky. We pass down phones between the 6 of us, and Geoff always lets me have the latest model. I wouldn't be a blogger if I told the short and sweet version, so I must elaborate.

Last night we got the urge to trek out and find a spot to observe the bioluminescent surf. We parked at the top of Fletcher Cove, and walked down to the beach. It was dark. Really dark, even with the almost full moon behind us. But when I started to take pictures, with the long, slow exposures that my phone takes, the results looked like strange lighting on a movie set, like I collaged palm trees against a dusky sky. Invisble details, like the railing, the squares on the quilt Maria had wrapped around her, are as clear as day (almost.) Movement creates a soft focus, like oil paints gently brushed on canvas; detailed, yet blurred. That amazing little pocket technology gathers every last photon and makes visible a world we cannot see. I can't decide if it's a feature or if it's a little too good. Do you know what I mean? It's more like I used effects or filters, and these are not true depictions of what we saw. I didn't touch up or modify any of these.

The brightest figure in the sky is Jupiter. Far south of the bluff are the lights of La Jolla. We watched the waves for a long while, and maybe our eyes needed time to adjust, before we began to see really good bursts of luminescence. Green or slightly blushish light would peel from the black, cresting waves, and as the waves broke, bursts of colored light would appear.
Looking north, as though through night vision goggles, we see the bluffs of Solana Beach, to Cardiff Reef, and up to Swami's and Noonan's Point.

When I showed her some of the shots I was getting, Maria was astonished, and said "They're in color!" We were looking at a black and white world. White stars, and moon, bright Jupiter in the dark sky, black waves breaking into white foam, with flashes of green, sparkles of blue... magical, fleeting bursts of color, and everything else obscure, mysterious. The iPhone was picking up all of the particles of light, and it was hard not to be surprised at seeing the golden bluffs, green plants, the blue in the sky, even our faces, and details of our clothes.

As amazing as the effect is, a camera that can illuminate dark places, Maria and I were even more impressed and awestruck by the black and white world, by the calm quiet of darkness. We studied the horizon, learning to distinguish the subtly distinct small waves, from the more distant and larger blackest waves. Those blackest waves were the most likely to peel out in flashes of luminescene. Light came rolling out of a void, like something tearing open, expelling bursts of energy, clouds of churning water propelled in streams across the horizon. I wish I could take you there. I wish there were a way for us to be this happy in darkness, and to gather all of the particles of unseen light, to bring us calm, quiet awe, and wonder.

5 comments:

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Wow that really is an amazing camera. I'm still using my old iPhone 8 Plus. Getting a new one next year (yippee!). Your photos are gorgeous, and I enjoyed the videos too. It's been a long time since I went down to see the luminescence in the dark - like 45 or 50 years ago!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Sara, I am excited for you to get your new phone... it's a really amazing upgrade!
Thank you for appreciating the videos. They aren't what I wish they could be, but I love that they can still help me recall what was special about the night. I wouldn't say this was the best example of the bioluminescence, but I am so glad we bothered going out. It's not easy leaving the house after dark, when I am inclined to be headed to bed! The views and fresh air, the bit of walking around, and even the rhythm of waves rolling in, surf crashing... it all gave my spirits a much needed gift of connection and engagement.

Nicole said...

My goodness, you live in a beautiful area of the world! I am just wowed by the photos, and the camera too. Whenever I try to take photos of the night sky, it never looks how I see it. I am just stunned by the beauty of these pictures!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Not to sound boastful, but you're right! It's pretty ridiculously beautiful here, and in ways that people especially admire when it's coming on winter. We are immeasurably lucky. Living near beaches, with nice weather year-round, and so naturally I daydream of four season climates, snow, forests, rainfall, moss, and country roads! lol. Actually, since lockdown and travel restrictions, our Southern California paradise has been super crowded with visitors, and they haven't left! Normally, things quiet down a lot after Labor Day, but restaurants, beaches, and highways are busier than ever!
It's a funny thing with this camera, which I love, but when it's dark, it takes pictures of things we are NOT seeing! No flash, either. It's weird. And in this instance, strangely compelling.

Little Dorrit does... said...

It's amazing how much colour the camera captured when the videos show just how dark it was on the beach. The photos have a real "other-worldly" quality to them - quite hauntingly lovely!