In Maritime Canada, on the southwest shore of Nova Scotia, Lunenburg's harbor waters reflect a town of wooden ships, hardy residents and a myriad of vibrant red buildings.
Seen through thick fog from across Lunenburg's harbor, these red structures stand out. Their color is a safety precaution. Painting harborside buildings red is a tradition traceable back to 1753 when Lunenburg was founded. Then, before global positioning systems, navigating your ship into port was accomplished with dead reckoning and experience, so to avoid accidents, the high contrast red color ashore alerted homecoming captains that land was imminent.
While I'm not a ship's captain, when we drop anchor in Lunenburg harbor, it is still easy to find the shore, so I immerse myself in the town's culture. Strolling along the harbor, questions come to mind about some of the other aspects of red, beyond how Lunenburg's story. For instance, why do we see color the way we do?
This puzzling led me to explore color culture and color psychology. How does color influence our moods, symbols and perceptions?
We know that color comes from light reflected from an object. Yet, a mystery remains. Objects do not reflect a color of light that is not present. There are holes in a every color spectrum; some colors simply are not there. Each light source has a different mix of colors. Even in light bulbs of the same type and company, there are variations in the spectrum and colors that do not exist.
So, while Lunenburg's red buildings seem to have just one shade of red, there were difference in shade and some missing reds as well. Wandering its harbor streets, I found shades of wine, apply, berry, currant, scarlet and crimson, but no blood red. And when I thought I was seeing a single color, looking from afar, up close the shades of red were nuanced. Red hues changed with the light intensity and the surrounding hues. Lunenberg's reds were not those of just one kind of wine, but a whole variety of vintages and blends.
Seeing a flag waving near the harbor, I also puzzled over the symbolism and uses of the many reds we see. Color symbolism is woven into our beliefs. Take the Canadian flag. It is is red and white. The red is symbolic of England. In Western cultures, red is perceived as energetic. It is an action-oriented hue: Spiderman and Superman wear red.
Red branding also means we should buy this product. It is often the main logo color in top promotional products like Coke. Red is the hue of danger, war, and power. The uniforms of some Western colonial powers sport red clothing. In Eastern cultures, red is seen differently. Red is a preferred color for a bridal dress in India. There, the Hindu festival of colors called Holi covers its participants with powders of many colors, and the festival's reds symbolize fertility.
Elsewhere, red has other meanings. In South Africa, red is sometimes the color of mourning.
It was time to go. Fatigued, as I walked wistfully downhill back to my rowboat, I passed by the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum building. A red car was parked between a red motorcycle and the Museum. I waited until a red vehicle came into the middle of the scene. What clicked was red itself!
So, why all that red? It keeps me awake, even as I dream about returning to Lunenburg.
How can I possibly sleep this moonlit evening?
Come, my friends, Let’s sing and dance
All night long.
Colors of the moon painted my dreams, and awakened me, during a lunar eclipse in late September. Eclipsed by the earth, its pumpkin hues of orange and red transported my senses. Shining through my sleep, irradiating my bedroom, its bright sphere kept me awake through the night.
I tried to photograph it, but all efforts to portray the essence of a supermoon were in vain. Photography failed like a finger pointing at the moon, in the Zen tradition, fails to communicate the enlightenment experience.
The essence of moonlight defied space and time. It was a dance, not a photograph. Why? I am comfortable with small spaces like the aperture of my lens, and I get by managing short time periods, like those of a range of shutter speeds. But this lunar eclipse event was an experience outside the frame that transcended space and time.
Many have tried to predict earthly events by seeking the moon. These predictions are dire, they all call for "a bad moon arisin' ". Mormon leaders predicted a major earthquake would strike Utah on the night of this blood moon. This did not happen. While there was an earthquake of magnitude 2.9 in Utah, it occurred on July 29th. There have been many false prophets of moon doom.
A supermoon is a rarity. For a photographer, it is a challenge. Technical issues like making a sharp, well exposed picture are trumpeted by those who succeed. True, this takes a bit of practice. But my failures to catch the supermoon with a camera were not for technical reasons. I missed the essence. The magic of the supermoon escaped me, for I did not make the time to love it, and truly embody it. A lunar eclipse is a paradox. It is a bodily experience that has to be felt. Pondering the encounter with a supermoon, it points to something larger and timeless than my blink-in-time lifespan.
CALL ME A LUNATIC
Call me a lunatic. My nighttime dances with moonlight go on. Often in vain, I photograph the moon when I feel its presence deeply and its radiance is beyond words. So, I must make pictures even though the moon unyokes feelings that run outside of the picture frame. I can't dwell on this paradox for long. . . In the end, it's not about success or failure, it is about the pleasure of the chase. I gotta go grab the tripod now, because there is another silent full moon out tonight. I know, lunacy.