Magic light

Sometimes you just get lucky. Although, it is also said that luck favors the prepared.


In continuing the discussion of light, let us turn to one of the recurring themes of photographic lore, the “magic light”. Magic light is that period just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the low angle of the sun creates shadows that are, um, magic …

It was the end of the day, and we had been shooting at one of the churches featured in the Texas Church Project. This is Holy Trinity Church in New Corn Hill. (Yes, there is an Old Corn Hill.) It was late in the day, and getting near sunset.

I had been at this church before, and had found this location west of the church across a cornfield. (Yes, corn!)  However, the previous visits had not presented me with perfect “magic” light and near perfect clouds.

Vespers is the sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, Anglican (Episcopal), and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα (hespera) and the Latin vesper, meaning “evening.” Some of the prayers during these services refer to the “vesper light”, i.e., the evening light.

Traditionally, churches in the West were oriented so that the altar was in the East end and the front (actually the rear) of the building faced west. Even in buildings not so oriented to the compass, the altar is still referred to as being in the “liturgical East”. In Gothic buildings, one often sees a large Rose window in the West end, which is particularly effective on a clear evening. The National Cathedral in Washington DC is a glorious example of this effect.

On the outside, some churches were built with light colors or even gold leaf so that the setting sun would make the West façade glow under the right conditions. The 14th Century Cathedral at Orvieto, in Italy, is probably the most elaborate and well known example of this.

And in Texas, just northeast of Georgetown, sits a country parish built in 1913 where occasionally all of the elements come together and the vesper light causes this brick building to glow.

If only I had had the perfect lens. This vertical image is actually cropped from a horizontal 6×7 negative. Thank the photo gods for big negatives!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s