“I Think It’s Nice That We Share The Same Sky,” says Sophie to her father in Aftersun, a movie about parenthood, growing up, connection, and loss. It’s nice that we share the same sky because, in a way, we’re together under this sky even when we’re apart.
If the sky can connect us with loved ones far away, it can also connect us to ourselves – the version of ourselves that we used to be. It’s still the same sky. It’s just that the planets and the stars have moved across the sky so many times, each one describing its own movement, its signature, over and over again.
I look at my photos and I see not so much places but moments in time. But I also see myself, that invisible self that used to be behind the camera. I see how I used to feel, how I used to be, how that photo was connected to the rest of my life at that very moment.
The vegetation has long taken over these abandoned tracks.
I’m standing here as the sun goes down and this incredibly warm light washes over me. In the background, everything lits up like a giant bonfire.
I discovered these abandoned train tracks somewhere on the border between Belgium and The Netherlands. Most probably, they were used to transport coal from Limburg towards the nearby industrial cities. This former mining area is now a national park.
Sofia’s topic for The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is “mood”.
I often surprised myself using backlighting when photographing landscapes. There was no calculation involved. It was spontaneous and intuitive. I just felt like turning toward the sun and working with the light as it came through the early morning mist and through the trees.
Being in the forest at the break of dawn and waiting for the first sun rays. Feeling that raw freshness as if everything has just been born and all the possibilities are there, still to unfold. I cannot compare this to anything else.
Backlighting can add a layer of mood and emotion to a photograph. It can add to its storytelling potential. The light coming from behind the subject can create a halo-like effect around them. This can convey a sense of mystery or highlight the subject’s silhouette, adding to the visual interest of the image.
It comes as no surprise that famous photographers have used backlit subjects to great effect in their work. For example, Annie Leibovitz often uses backlit subjects in her portraits to create a sense of drama and emotion. In her portrait of Bruce Springsteen, Leibovitz uses backlighting to create a sense of drama and tension. The light streams in from behind Springsteen, casting his face in shadow and creating a moody and atmospheric image that tells a story of a rock star on the edge.
Backlighting can also be used to add depth, texture, and dimensionality to an image. In his photograph “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”, Ansel Adams uses backlighting to create a stunning image of a moon rising over a landscape. The light of the setting sun streams in from behind the mountains, casting them in shadow, creating a sense of depth, and leading the viewer’s eye back to the foreground.
Backlighting can also be used to enhance storytelling. In his photograph of a family crossing a river in India, Steve McCurry uses backlighting to emphasize the dramatic nature of the scene. The backlighting creates a sense of movement and adds to the feeling of being in the moment. The image tells the story of a family’s struggle to cross the river and highlights the harsh realities of life in India.
I started taking photos in nature and for a long time photography was associated, for me, with natural habitats. Then I started exploring urban environments and the way they interact with nature. Much later, I moved on to portraits. Then I started working on photo projects focused on issues that were important to me.
The birds they sang
At the break of day
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
(from Leonard Cohen - Anthem)
There is no way of attaching smells to photos or videos as of yet. But smells are a big part of how we experience places, relations, and time.
Smells have an emotional footprint. I go through a forest and there are minute changes to the cocktail of smells I am exposed to. I react emotionally to these changes way before I am aware of them. These smells speak directly to a part of my brain that is much older than my prefrontal cortex.
Most of what we do as humans – at least most of what’s of significance – is done in silence and far from the limelight. This applies to photography too. Although photography is meant to be shared, published, exposed, almost everything that leads up to the point where we have something to publish is solitary work. It’s about being face to face with your subject (whether it’s a person, a landscape, or anything else). It’s about being face to face with ourselves.
Just before the first spring flowers pop out of the snow and before Lent, the 40-day fasting period before Easter, something colorful and outrageous happens in villages and towns across Belgium. It’s carnival time and people come together to celebrate in excess, just as later on they used to congregate to celebrate in fasting and penance.