Shades of blue light

by DRM

I shared a bus ride in Ireland once with a French man who carried more photo equipment than clothing. It was 1979 and the bus ran local stops up into Donegal from Killybegs. I was on my way to a little town called Glencolumkille, where I’d spent a timeless week in a cottage with six other itinerants. I was on a quiet pilgrimage of my own this time. There was a sheep herders’ hut on an isolated field that jutted out beyond the bogs above the ocean and I planned to camp out there for a while.

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I fashioned myself an artist then. Not even that, really. I just wanted someone to think that I was an artist, so that all the time I spent scribbling in my notebook and picking out tunes on my saxophone could amount to something more than just things that I did. After all, how did you acquire an identity if you couldn’t have external artifacts?

So, I was impressed when the Frenchman got on. He had blond hair, stained fingers, a vest filled with pouches, film canisters and light meters. We made conversation, a little French, a little English. I asked him what he was travelling for.

The perfect light, he said.

There was a light in Ireland that came as the sun moved around the horizon, at dawn, or sunset, a light that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. He’d seen it once when he was young and had waited all his life to come back and photograph it.

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The image captivated me. I looked for the light and felt like I’d seen it sometimes. I wondered how you could grab it on film, because it was such a three-dimensional thing, that light, that enveloped you and soothed more than just your sense of sight.

I’m surprised sometimes when I take a photo and find that light in it. These two photos are from the Bahamas.