Rah, rah!

You might say I’m a collector of shadows, considering I have a Flickr tag and blog category devoted to them. So when I saw today’s Photo Friday theme, Shadows, I knew I’d have to go no further than my own photo archives to find an assortment of images to share.

Shade tree

Scissorhands with shadows

I stand as nigh

Fire escape shadows

Towering, with shadow

Shadow selves

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Shadows.

Looming large

I’m not surprised the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday given how long and looming Reggie’s and my shadow-selves have been this past month.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Tall.

Yard rake with shadow

March is an aesthetically challenging month: the season of visual doldrums. As much as I thrill to see the first snowdrops and crocuses, in March the rest of the ground is bare, the monochrome earth unadorned with snow and the glaring sun unmitigated by sheltering leaves. Recent days have been been bright, but the light of March is harsh and unforgiving, carving shadows like slashes on the cold, hard ground. In March, my eyes have grown tired of days that are paradoxically bright and cold, and my very cells themselves feel starved for color more than contrast.

String of pearls with shadow

In checking my blog-archives for this time last year, I see I suffered the same affliction, taking pictures of shadows for lack of anything better to shoot. When I was new to blogging, I thought dry spells meant my creative juices were drying up for good: I hadn’t seen enough seasons to realize the way inspiration ebbs and flows in its own time.

These days, I know to keep walking, keep squinting, and keep shooting even through the glaringly monochrome days of March, trusting that both color and inspiration will return with the gentle days of spring.

Afternoon shadows

In the summer, sunlight poured down hard and bright, casting sharp-edged shadows as if carved in stone. Now in autumn, late afternoon light languishes in softness as it trickles down aslant, kissing surfaces with only a subtle hint of darkness. Summer light makes a bold statement; autumnal light skirts around the edges, smudgy.

This is my contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Softness.

Grapevine with shadow

When I saw today’s Photo Friday theme, In Shadow, I knew I’d have a difficult time choosing one image to share. J and I have an ongoing joke about my fondness for taking pictures of shadows; whenever we go walking, J knows that if I stop and aim my camera down or toward an otherwise unremarkable wall, I’m probably shooting a shadow.

Shadows

I’m so fond of light and shadow, I have an entire blog category, a Flickr photo tag, and several photo sets devoted to them. I admire the way shadows simplify objects by streamlining them into mere shape; shadows, like photographs, condense three dimensions into two. I also marvel at the way shadows define presence through absence: because light isn’t here, some sort of object must be there. I love to watch the shadows of overhead clouds, for instance, roll across a landscape, and I’ve spotted more than a few overhead hawks and crows because their shadows have passed beneath my earth-bound feet. I’m intrigued, too, at the multiple meanings of the word “shade,” for the dark shape cast by slanting light both embodies the essential shape of a given object but also its transience: shadows, like the bodies that cast them and the ghosts they leave behind, are here today and gone tomorrow.

Three umbrellas

Yet, shadows are even more transient than that, for anyone who has spent an entire day meditating inside a well-lit Dharma room knows how oddly entertaining it can be, when you have nothing to do but sit, to watch your own shade–the upright shadow cast by your torso as it sits centered on your cushion–move around you like a sundial’s hand: here in morning, there in afternoon. Just like your thoughts, ephemeral shadows cast by clouds race across the floor before your downcast eyes: who knew that a quiet wooden floor had such daily dramas played upon it, unnoticed?

Due to a congenital quirk, J has trouble perceiving visual depth: to him, the world looks flat, not contoured. Rather than seeing the world in three dimensions, he sees it in two, with both shadows and objects looking like flat patches of color. Given this optical oddity, it makes sense that J is an excellent photographer: whereas the rest of us have to imagine how a three-dimensional scene would look when flat and framed, J’s eyes already focus on the bare essentials of color and line. Shadows, too, simplify a scene by eliminating the extraneous details of depth and distance. The sun is millions of miles away, but right here, underfoot, she announces her presence in shadow.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, In Shadow.

Three umbrellas

This afternoon one of my teaching colleagues remarked on the seemingly miraculous ability of our students to shed clothing at the slightest sight of sun. He’s right. The temperature when I dressed this morning was in the 30s, so I left my house in a fleece jacket, turtleneck, jeans, socks, and shoes whereas students in my afternoon classes arrived in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.

Three umbrellas

Already, the campus quad has been claimed by Frisbee-throwers and at least one sunning student with a blanket, despite the still-soggy ground underfoot. Students just can’t wait, it seems, to enjoy sunny days lazing on the lawn, lumping their sun-worship and open-air naps under the category “studying.”

I can hardly blame them. Although I didn’t spend any time today lazing on the lawn, sunning myself, or napping in the fresh air, I was happily hurrying toward home when that colleague of mine remarked about our amazing, spontaneously shedding students. Home at last, I shed my coat, swapped shoes for sandals, and took Reggie for a long anticipated stroll in the afternoon sun. My student days are long over, but the sun is good for walking in any season, and spring shadows wait for no one.

Construction webbing shadow, with triangle

Spring shadows seem harsher than those from any other time of the year, as if the newly bare earth and pavement have been lacerated with light. In these bleak, blasted days of cold mornings and mild afternoons, the landscape is still monochromatic, with only planted crocuses and snowdrops offering a respite of color. In a starkly black and white world, shadows seem shocking, gaping wounds on an otherwise whole world. The ground seems scarred with striations as the sun shifts from one horizon to the other: wounded and waiting for the healing cover of fresh vegetation.

Click here for the complete photo-set of “Light and Shadow” images, shot these past few days in Keene. Enjoy!