Saturday, July 7, 2012

Photographing Light

Give light and the darkness
will disappear of itself.
~ Desiderius Erasmus

Whenever I visit the Twin Cities, I always try to stay at the same hotel. It’s not the best hotel in the world, or even in the Twin Cities, but it has easy access on and off the Interstate, and I can park my car for however long I am there. My daughter is more than happy to chauffeur us, and I am more than happy to let her. Notwithstanding that I cut my driving chops in the large urban area where I grew up, the freeway maze that is the Twin Cities completely baffles me. But the principal reason I love to stay at this particular hotel is not parking, nor is it the restaurant, which is awful. And it’s not the rooms, which are adequate, but nothing special. On hockey-game nights, private security guards patrol the hallways. In short, it’s not the Ritz. I’ve stayed at a Ritz Carlton, and believe me, I can tell the difference. No, what I really love about this hotel is the view.

But, you ask, how can this be, if it’s right on the Interstate?

Well, this is how –

By Divine Ms. Moon
From the front of the hotel, the view is full on to the South – and right smack in the middle of the view, across about 10 lanes of freeway, is the exquisite Cathedral of St. Paul, the signature landmark of the City of St. Paul. There is an urban myth -- not true -- that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre were married in this church many years ago. In other words, there’s history here. 

Although I am not at all religious, church architecture fascinates me. The Cathedral of St. Paul, being of somewhat indeterminate style, has everything  -- domes, and cupolas, bell towers, “rose” windows, and all the dental molding that anyone could wish for. I love to photograph the Cathedral in varying light conditions. In this way, I am trying to imitate what Claude Monet did with his “series” paintings in the 1890s. The photo above is perhaps my favorite. It was taken at sunrise from my seventh floor hotel room window. I managed to capture the warmth of the morning light without getting any glare or reflection from the glass. In short, I got lucky.

By Divine Ms. Moon
The above photo was taken from pretty much the same spot in my hotel room, but at night. It’s not the perfect photo, as it suffers from a bit of low-light wobble, but I really liked the illusion that the Cathedral is floating in a luminous pool.  

On other evenings, my daughter and I have explored the Cathedral from different angles. The photo below was taken this spring, at dusk, from a street that runs behind the Cathedral. The sapphire evening glow was pretty much as seen here. But to me, the most interesting thing about this photo is the cross at the top of the cupola, which appears to be in front of the branch of the tree. But that was not so -- rather, I was standing hundreds of feet away from the Cathedral, and that tree was planted into the sidewalk, just a few feet to my right. 

By Divine Ms. Moon
I have no ready explanation for this phenomenon, except that it reminds me a little of how clouds sometimes appear to disappear behind the Moon.

Musical Interlude
Norah Jones, "The Nearness of You"

The next photo was taken the same evening as the one above, but a little later, and much closer, looking up. I’m not very religious, but I was awestruck by how the camera interpreted that tower light as gleaming out like a beacon. That’s not exactly how it appeared to the eye. I remember wondering whether the Cathedral’s architect ever saw the light in this particular way.  

By Divine Ms. Moon

Below is one last look at the Cathedral, captured in the pale, cold light of a late fall morning, Other than light, what distinguishes this photograph from the two photographs at the beginning of this post? Simply stated, the streetlight that appears in this photo, which was taken from ground level, vanishes like magic when the Cathedral is photographed from the seventh floor. 

By Divine Ms. Moon
And, finally, just as every Cracker Jack box has a surprise inside, this post also has a surprise inside. The photo below shows the view from the other side of my hotel, taken from the parking lot one evening after my daughter and I returned from dinner. What is that big building that dominates this photo? It’s the Minnesota Capitol building, which has been undergoing renovations for the past several years, explaining the scaffolding.

By Divine Ms. Moon
Pretty impressive, huh? And this is only the second-best view. I hope you can see why I really love to stay at this hotel, and always will, although it’s absolutely not the Ritz. 

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