My photography project for the summer was early morning images on medium format film. In practice that meant getting up while it was still dark, setting up one or more 20-30 year old large film cameras on tripods and waiting for the sun and sky to do their thing. The most intense colors come a bit before sunrise, when the sun is still beyond the horizon but its rays are hitting the bottom of the clouds, yielding a truly surreal palate of vibrant colors that can range from deep purple to rich magenta, flaming orange, bright yellow, soft pink, baby blue and dreamy violet. Those colors then reflect off the bottom of the clouds onto the surface of the lake, resulting in yet another palate of complimentary hues. The resulting views can be quite astounding, but what really surprised me is how quickly they change. The colors and light intensities are constantly shifting and sometimes the best moments only last for 30 seconds.
Every time I returned from the camera shop with another developed role of film I would excitedly lay them out on the light table just to see what had been captured. As cliche as it may sound, no two are like, and if it weren’t for the photographic reminder there is no way I could actually remember all the shades and hues of each morning and each moment.
So while the sun was reflecting morning’s first light off the clouds and water, it seems to me that nature itself was somehow reflecting something that happens in my own mind and heart fairly often. I’m talking about those moments when life’s colors are the most intense and overpowering; those moments when the events around me filled me with awe and amazement, but in retrospect only seemed to last for a fleeting moment. For me that would include the first time I packed all my earthly belongings into my own car and headed down the road, my wedding day, the births of our children, certain intensely spiritual moments, the day I first experienced my father in his Alzheimer’s diminished mental capacity, both of my parents’ funerals and more.
What intrigues me is that, just as the incredible colors of those early morning skies tend to fade in my memory, likewise the overwhelming emotions that filled my heart on each of those intense moments somehow fade over time. But when I see the framed photos on the walls of my study I am reminded again of just how spectacular those pre-dawn colors really were. And likewise, every once in a while something; maybe just a word, an image, or just about anything, will function like those photos and rekindle in my heart all the raw emotions and memories of one of my own, almost forgotten, but particularly intense moments of the past.