Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pelican Shadows and Other Shadows of Interest

This week I stood on the boardwalk facing away from the beach, watching pelicans soar by in jagged lines. Their shadows swooped over the slants and peaks of the rooftops as they passed, a second procession of pelicans in silhouette.

Pelican shadows
Shadows of pelicans on an interestingly angled roof
More pelican shadows

Light has so many interesting effects—shine, sparkle, reflection and refraction—and the absence of light, in the form of shadows, can be interesting as well. I once lived in a house with a window high up along the stairs. There was a tree just outside it and the sun shone through the leaves, casting shadows of foliage on the wall. The rectangle of sunshine was dappled with mysterious silhouettes that were constantly shifting as the breeze stirred the leaves. It was a bit like wallpaper in motion.

What shadows are cast on the walls inside this house?

At the beach, the way the sun shone through the waves as they ran up the shore brought back to me the strange lines of light and shadow at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. The water above is clear and there is nothing floating there, but as the air brushes past the water, the lines of light and spaces of shadow move gently. If you splash or make too many waves, the lines shake and are agitated almost out of existence, only to reappear as the water calms.

All these things, and their shadows, are small enough to be distinct from their background. Clouds, on the other hand, have such big shadows that usually we only notice them as the difference between a spell of overcast sky and a burst of renewed sunshine. From above—say, in an airplane—we could see the clouds and their shadows below them, but from the ground, we just know that the sun has “gone in.”

A dome of dark clouds hangs over the beach

I read somewhere that in planning landscapes, one should take into account the view from one’s window. “What can you see from the window? How can you make it more attractive and interesting?” I liked that idea, and I’m wondering if someone has taken this thinking a step further and asked, “What shadows will be created on this wall at different times by these plants and this landscaping?”

Perhaps someone could take it even further and design something where a particular shadow appears only when the sun is in a specific position, rather like an ancient astrological calendar.  That would be like having a secret message written on your walls, except that the invisible ink is only revealed when the sun is properly aligned. Hmm. I wonder how I could work that.

Interesting shadows on white gravel

Till next post.

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