Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Winter solstice (or summer, or the vernal/autumnal equinoxes) would probably be ordinary, run-of-the-mill days for me. I don't have pagan beliefs, so other than the fact that today is Sunday, I did go to church. But I didn't take part in any of the local solstice celebrations that occurred in the area.

However, as a photographer (or at least, a photographer whose "instant sketchpad" is the camera and its resulting products), winter solstice is special in a number of ways:
  1. Dawn is later in the morning -- I don't have to wake up so darned early if I want to be "out there" at sunrise for a shoot;

  2. Here in the northern hemisphere, the sun is as low in the sky as it's going to get, reducing the time wasted waiting for the sun NOT to be overhead with its boring lighting;

  3. The sun is as far south as it's going to get for the year.

This last point was important for creating the painting I've shown in this post. This view, south of Palm Desert, CA, has become one of my favorite scenes. If you were standing there seeing the landscape before you, you would be facing northeast.

During the other times of the year, the sun is further to the left (north), resulting in a backlit scene which can be dramatic, but in this case, I preferred sunlight to come from the side. That only happens in the morning in winter, and winter solstice is the best day of the year to find that lighting at this site.

The problem? It's winter. No flowers. But he-e-e-y-y ... I'm an artist! I can fix that!

So -- the lighting in the painting is from when the sun is furthest south -- on winter solstice. (I should know -- I was there a few years ago). The flowers, of course, are from spring. I've combined elements from two different times of the year in this painting. Plus, I added the bighorn sheep ram, which actually do live in this area.

This scene has been popular with the Palm Springs - Palm Desert crowd, especially with folks who visit from somewhere else in the country. In a sense, my paintings of this place show everything that is good about the desert: the flowers, the red-bloomed ocotillo, the overlapping hills that extend a great distance, and an example of the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep. And I was able to combine the best of two different seasons, including the magic lighting of winter solstice.

Wanna celebrate solstice, anyone?

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