Light is magical and mystical. It can awaken a healing energy within me or create a confusing sense of deja vu.
In the winter I enjoy being outdoors at night in my garden just to appreciate the light. When there is a full moon visible in the sky, the entire garden is bathed in a luminous glow. My perception of familiar landmarks and textures becomes altered. As a gentle, diffuse blue light settles on the grass it creates snow; leaves and twigs stand eerily in the dimness — angled and stiff as tombstones or grave markers.
And there are shadows. During the day, shadows are a playful artifact. On a moonlit night, shadows are still and eerie as the silent and ever watchful sentinels in my garden.
It is enough for me simply to ponder the faint moonlight as it surrounds my hand. The light has a depth and density missing during the day and my hand floats in the light, rather than being illuminated by it.
When I look at a star and realize I am not seeing something that is — but rather something that was, I feel as if I’ve set foot into another dimension. Standing in the present and in the past at the same time, past and present become connected. It is that moment of connection I like to explore.
My favorite expression in photography is shooting in darkness, working with a subject I can’t see and creating compositions in the camera over which I have little control. I leave the shutter open for an extended period of time to collect light — much as a scientist would collect data, algae, or water. Then I move the camera to another location and collect more light.
In my compositions I can intend for certain elements to be visible, but they are never expressed in a way I expect.
It is a thrill when the film is developed and an image is revealed. The compositions that appear represent nearly cosmic connections between present, past, intent, mischief, and sometimes mystery.
I’ve preserved a wrinkle in time and can revisit it again at any time by looking at the print.
Tess McMillan is the Communications “Vector” for the Bellevue College Gallery Space. She planted more than 80 trees and 100 shrubs to build a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary certified by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.