Sunday, May 31, 2009

Magical Rays of Light

Rays on the Patomac - Piney Point
In nearly every post placed on this blog, I state that photography is all about light.  Well, in this entry I take that idea very literally.  The shots featured here are clearly about light, but in a very literal sense; they feature rays of light.
Rays of light coming through a window, cloud, or between the trees in a dense forest encourage the imagination.  They make you wonder what is at the other end?  How do they come to be?  What do they mean?  What are they shining on, and why?
NREL Wind Turbine Blade -2
From a very practical perspective, lets take a look at the bits and pieces that must come together for us to see these light rays.  First, and most obviously, you need a light source.  In all the shots shown here, the light source is the sun.  But other light sources can result in the same effect – spot lights on a stage, a street light in a snow storm, or stadium lights in a driving rain.
Next,  you need an aperture for the light.  In other words, the shot above with a wind turbine blade in the foreground and operating wind turbines in mid-field would not have light rays unless the clouds were there to block out some of the light while allowing bands of light to pass (this shot, and the others with wind turbines, were taken at the US Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden Colorado).
Rays in church
Next, you need to have a sufficiently dark background to allow the rays of light to standout.  The shot above was taken in the Church in the Field near Garmisch Germany.  The dark background of the church walls make these light rays pop from the picture.  Rays of light shining through churches always add to the mystical nature of light.  It almost seems as though God is shining a flashlight through the window with the intention of bringing your attention to something important.
Abu Dhabi Desert Landscape (4 of 6)
The final ingredient to forming light rays is something to reflect the light.  In other words, with out fog, rain, snow, mist, sand, dust, or something else suspended in the air, the light would continue on it’s path and never be reflected to your eye.  The shot above was taken in the deserts of the UAE.  Most likely, the light rays are a result of light reflecting off dust or sand blown into the air.
Al Aain Oasis
Like the last shot, the one above is taken in the UAE.  This shot was taken at the oasis on the outskirts of Al AIn and like the previous shot, the light rays were likely formed from suspended dust and sand. 
The next shot is taken in Washington DC and includes a view of the Main Avenue marinas in the foreground and Haines Point in the midfield.  This shot reinforces all of the elements necessary to have these wonderful rays of light; light source, aperture, dark background, and something suspended in the air to reflect the light.
Storm Over Potomac
The final shot is a bit different than the others, because it involves a reflection that fills the same role as the aperture we talked about earlier.  The shot is of the very top of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.  This hotel is the second tallest hotel in the world and stands 1050 feet.  The Burj Al Arab anchors the Jumeirah beach and is just minutes from the Palm Jumeirah (a series of artificial islands shaped like a palm tree).  I will not attempt to talk about the immense list of features this hotel showcases, but I will mention one of my favorites.  About one third of the way up the photograph, you see a disk suspended on somewhat of a cantilever.  This platform is at a height of 692 feet and is a helipad.  The really cool thing is that in 2005, the helipad was temporarily converted into a tennis court as a promotion associated with the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open.  Andre Agassi and Roger Federer took advantage of the opportunity to get in a couple of warm-up rounds.  (Check out for some shots of the “tennis court.”
Burj Al Arab
I hope you enjoyed these shots and find the opportunity to capture some sunbeams.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that I (a unsuspecting and uninformed until now pedestrian) didn't notice the rays of light as you were taking those pictures in the UAE. I guess I need to pay more attention in the future. Great blog Craig. Thanks!