Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photographing the 4rth Dimension: Time

The sky over Russian Ridge during the Perseid Meteor Shower on August 12, 2013
[Timelapse Animation of ~180 images during the midnight hours.]

Photographing the 4rth Dimension: Time

The art of painting and photography has captured the 3-dimensional that we inhabit in a 2-dimensional way.  Historically, the early paintings and up about to the renaissance were often ‘flat’ due to lack of special differentiation.  It was the Dutch Masters and others of that period in the 17th century that introduced the mastery of special perspective, working with depth of space, shadow and light to bring out the special orientation and perspective.

In photography, depth of field, line-work and other tools bring out the spacial dimensions beautifully. 

But it is possible to bring the element of time into photography?  You might say of course since the invention of movies and videos we have captured time beautifully.  But can it be captured in a still frame?

Loop-di-loop over the City by the Bay - Helocopter and airplane traffic depicted over time

In the past 2 years during my exploration of the night sky, the stars and the Milky Way, I have pondered this question.  I often am out at night and set up my camera to take images of the stars in consecutive frames over 1-3 hours.  As the earth rotates on its axis intersecting with Polaris, the North Star, it appears that the stars are moving but obviously it is “us” that is moving. Now, by combining the many images that are captured into one still image, I am actually capturing the 4rth dimension: Time in a 2-dimensional space.

Remember Copernicus (~1533) and Galileo Galilei (~1570) from your history lessons?  Both postulated heliocentrism and earth rotation – observations that at the time were deemed to be heresy by the church who believed that the earth was the center of the Universe.  [Heliocentrism, or heliocentricism,[1] is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the center of the Solar System. Ref: Wikepedia]

SkyArt - Startrails around Polaris and airplanes reflecting in the Duck Pond

When planning to photograph the night sky, the Bay Area is unfortunately not a good place to point the camera towards the sky since the light pollution from the many cities.  Have you looked towards the sky at night?  Not many stars are visible.  Moreover, there is a lot of air traffic overhead and the 'trails' of airplanes crisscross the sky.  However, when you travel to remote areas were the surroundings are dark (no light pollution) there are millions of star in the sky.  If you have traveled to the Sierra or hiked in the back country, you might have marveled at the beauty overhead while laying in your sleeping bag.  I am no longer backpacking but I can reach ‘dark sky’ areas by driving away from the cities and I do enjoy being out at night under the canopy of stars.

Tranquility over Lake Tahoe

The following images were taken over the last year or so during my travel to many different locations:

The Southern Sky over Torre del Paines, Chile

Last light and the marine (fog) layer over the Pacific at Pescadero

 Moonlight over Half Dome, Yosemite

Double Arch with light painting at Arches National Park, Utah

Starry Skyover Golden Gate - 
Less stars are visible but even with the light pollution of San Francisco 
one can capture the beauty of the sky.
This image was published by daily Newsletter in June, 2013

Airplane traffic out of San Francisco Airport

I hope you enjoyed my exploration of the night sky.

Til next time,