Art

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Perception of Time

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 11:03 AM

The rugged northern California coast is battered by a constant barrage of waves, their motion smoothed out in this 25-second exposure. Puffy clouds blowing by overhead were changed to streaks in the camera by their motion. Only the stars and rocks appeared to be still. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The rugged northern California coast is battered by a constant barrage of waves, their motion smoothed out in this 25-second exposure. Puffy clouds blowing by overhead were changed to streaks in the camera by their motion. Only the stars and rocks appeared to be still.
Considering how the world is versus our perception of it is interesting. Take this photograph. What do you see in it? Perhaps give yourself a moment and label all the things you find in it. You could describe the image with all of the thousand words a picture is due, but yet miss entirely some of the action that was taking place during the photograph, either because it wasn’t recorded at all or it was recorded in such a way that it isn’t recognizable. Did you note the crashing waves pounding the rocks below, or describe the cottony-puffy shape of the clouds as they drifted across the sky? What about the motion of the Earth beneath the stars, or the perpetual crumbling of the coastline into the waves occurring before our very eyes? It’s all there, but did you see it?

What’s real time? Let’s say real time is how we perceive time passing via our personal biological senses of sight, sound, smell, etc. Our eyes are made to bring us a view of our surroundings in an instant, with moment-by-moment updates. When I shot this image, I was out photographing with my friend and former student Jake Langston. In real time we saw each of the individual waves arriving in a continuous procession. One by one they rolled in to the shore, crashing and splashing around the gigantic buffer rocks in the shallows before finally pounding against the cliffs and beaches amid the familiar roar of the surf’s white noise. Above us a cluster of small clouds slid slowly across the sky, each a discrete little puff. Stars twinkled behind them, hanging apparently motionless across the magnificent night.
Jake takes a starry night photo overlooking the Pacific Ocean along Scenic Drive, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Jake takes a starry night photo overlooking the Pacific Ocean along Scenic Drive, Humboldt County, California.


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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Humboldt Moonset

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 1:39 PM

A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018.
When friends or family visit from afar my first wish is to share the natural beauty of our area with them, especially if they come from city lives insulated from nature. From the legendary forests of our towering redwoods to the beautiful beaches and rugged coastlines, the natural beauty of our area is its greatest treasure.

It’s all still there at night, too, remember. And night offers something else city folk never see at home: a sky full of stars. It’s all too easy to take things for granted when one is accustomed to seeing them, and we live in a wonderland here. But conversely, to those unaccustomed to the sights, our area offers some amazing eye-openers, not the least of which is our night sky. Visitors from less rural areas are often amazed at the number of stars we still have in our skies. If you take your visitors out, or even go yourself, allow fifteen to twenty minutes to let your eyes grow used to the dark so see the most stars.

There is really no better way to feel small in the Universe than to stare into the night sky full of stars and realize that each one is itself a sun, and all are impossibly distant from each other. Some of those points in the sky are themselves entire galaxies full of stars. And everything we see is but a small part of the whole Universe … so it makes me feel small. Living amongst and beneath all this beauty we have on California’s North Coast goes remarkably well with my current passion: sharing these wonders of the nightscape via my photography.

Even visiting friends who themselves are not strangers to the outdoors will appreciate our unique scenery. Take the new moon’s crescent setting over the Pacific at the very foot of the Milky Way … I ask you. How many folks get to see that? Not too many, probably, for it happens only once each year. The Milky Way moves across the horizon from left to right month by month, and the previous month saw the Milky Way setting to the left of the crescent moon, while the following month it was to the right of the moon.

The moon was the brightest object in the sky at the time of the accompanying photograph, and in allowing the camera to gather enough light for the surrounding area the moon itself nearly became a featureless brightness in the sky. But its crescent shape is preserved in the original image, and can be seen when printed large. If you’re unable to see the crescent shape here, it’s because it is too small as presented.

In editing the photograph I noticed that the sky above the horizon had two distinct color casts between the left and right sides. In the spirit of fun, I bumped up the saturation to bring out the color differences. In part because of that, I halfway think of the image title as “High Saturation” but officially I have titled it “Humboldt Moonset.”

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Cave Fire Dancer

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 11:24 AM

Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California.
Photographing a fire dancer this week was a new experience for me, and I was unsure how things would turn out when Chelsea Burns, a local fire dancer, approached me about taking pictures of her as she danced with fire. It sounded like something interesting to photograph in the dark, so I was into it. My imagination began to conjure images, seeing shapes and designs and scenes that we could make.

We chose a beach location for its fire safety and potential for reflections. I was interested in capturing images inside a nearby cave, and there were other large rocks and rock faces with great textures that could be brought out by the fire’s illumination.

But as I photographed while dusk slipped to night, I began to realize that capturing my vision of the fire dancer was going to take more experimenting than I had thought. Usually the fastest things moving about in my images are stars or clouds sliding across the sky, and bright light sources are held to a minimum. In contrast, the fire dancer’s twirling fire was a veritable cyclone of whirling light in constant blinding motion. It took a few frames to get used to that, and to be sure I am still not its master after photographing for only about an hour.

Looking through the photographs at home I couldn’t find any that I felt excited about. I needed more time to get used to the way the moving fire landed in the image in order to really capture what I was envisioning, but I see how it will be possible in future sessions. While I could find no single exposure that I thought stood on its own merits, I did find a number of them that I could put together into a fantasy environment. So I did.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Smoky Coastal Skies and Milky Way

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 11:30 AM

The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015.
At the end of the summer of 2015, my brother and I were out around midnight on a great rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the view between ourselves and the rest of the Universe. Fires inland had been burning for weeks, their pall of smoke glowing orange in the sky to the south of us, illuminated from below by the lights of coastal Humboldt County habitations. From out of our view in front of us, a lighthouse cast a cold blue light onto the Pacific to contrast with the orange color of the smoky sky. Above it all, rising from the fog of smoke and ocean mists loomed the Milky Way, a great galactic structure in the sky reminding us of our small part in the cosmic dance around us.

The night sky is a precious gift, a window out into something much larger than we are, a view into the cosmic splendor of which we play such a tiny part. It’s a window denied to those who reside in the city, but we on the California North Coast are fortunate to live where there are few major light sources at night and we can easily get away from them to enjoy rich starry skies. Here we find the natural beauty of the Earth by day, and at night we have the majesty and beauty of the universe to behold. It doesn’t get much better than that for those who love the natural world.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Musings at Moonstone Cave

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 11:24 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
We stood in the mouth of the cavern, looking out through a great broken crack in the blackness into the night as if through a window into another world. It fired our imaginations, conjuring mysteries in the night. What is it about caves that stirs us so inside? My thoughts wandered and stories began to play across my mind as my imagination took me to a time that might have been earlier that day. …

… Hiking the redwood forests of Humboldt County earlier in the afternoon, my two companions and I had stumbled onto a stone stairway in the woods. Its worn steps led up a hill and into the goosepen of a great redwood tree. We had all hiked this area before but none of us had ever seen the stairs or the tree, not even the hill it was on. I admit I was more than a little confused. I consider myself to have an excellent sense of direction and have never gotten lost in the forest before, but how could I have missed this until now? Were we where we thought we were? My companions were as confused as I.

The stairs seemed ancient, small ledges of rock covered in moss, lichen and fallen debris. They led up into the dark opening at the base of the tree where the redwood opened to accommodate them, widening as though it had been growing around the steps for a thousand years, enticing travelers to enter and explore its mysteries. We accepted the invitation.
Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling) - Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling)Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination.
The steps climbed up and into the tree’s hollow, and then immediately descended again to vanish into the darkness underground. The beam of my headlamp revealed the staircase curving out of view in the shadows below us. We looked at each other there at the top of the stairs — to explore, or no? My companions flicked their own headlamps on in answer. Down we went.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Reflections From Trinidad

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:37 PM

The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019.
I opened the camera’s shutter and waited.

It was already high tide, and I didn’t expect any waves to reach me. When I had arrived half an hour earlier I’d set up where the small waves coming in across Trinidad Harbor lapped nearly at my feet. I’d taken a few photographs from there, but the incoming tide periodically sent the odd wave farther than the rest and had pushed me back up the beach.

It must have been a message to me that I needed something more interesting in the foreground, for I found myself guided to a heavy wave-sculpted piece of driftwood I hadn’t noticed before in the darkness. Its contours would help bring the foreground to life.

Now as I waited through the long exposure I thought about the light falling around me. Most of the light on the beach came in from the boat launch area some distance to the right of me. It lay across the sand and surf in interesting patterns of shade made by various forms near the boat launch.

Light skimmed gently across the upper surfaces of the driftwood, accentuating its contours and illuminating a mound of sand around it. Some of the light also struck the camera, so I stood and waited where my body could shade the bulbous face of the wide angle lens. I wasn’t sure I had to, but it couldn’t hurt. It was a long exposure and I didn’t want any slight lens flare to build up during the course of it.

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HSU Announces Staff Eliminations, Major Changes at KHSU

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 10:35 AM

khsu.jpg
Humboldt State University today announced major changes and the elimination of seven positions at its public radio station KHSU, including General Manager Peter Fretwell, whose tenure was fraught with controversy after the sudden firing of longtime program and operations director Katie Whiteside in May.

Along with the staff reductions, which the university release states will result in “significant savings,” all volunteer-run programs are under “indefinite suspension,” according to the release.

No administrators are quoted in this morning’s announcement, which states the goal of “reorganizing and streamlining operations” is “preserving quality programming for the North Coast.”

KHSU’s roots date back to the 1930s and one of its iterations — KHSC — became the first licensed non-commercial FM station in the California university and state college systems.

But recent troubles, triggered by Whiteside’s firing and the ensuing fallout, along with what many saw as major incursions into operations by university staff have caused friction at the station and in the community.

Read more about those issues in previous Journal coverage here, here and here.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Dawn Chases the Milky Way

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 12:17 PM

Night Flees the dawn as the brightening blue overtakes the Milky Way. Kneeland Road, Humboldt County, California. March 17, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Night Flees the dawn as the brightening blue overtakes the Milky Way. Kneeland Road, Humboldt County, California. March 17, 2019.
I pulled into the turnout and shut off the engine and lights. The stars jumped out and I joined them. Above the horizon the core of our galaxy glowed in the last darkness of the night. I smiled. Hello, Darkness, my old friend, I thought. It seemed apt, though it was the sight of the Milky Way’s bright center in the sky for the first time in months that most excited me. It’s the largest cosmic structure we can see, a fascinating reminder of the unimaginable vastness and mystery beyond our world.

A bend in the road ahead beckoned. Beyond the turn lay… what? My imagination rose. Metaphor for many things, a road can hold unique feelings or meanings for each of us. To one person the road may lead outward toward places undiscovered, while to another it will bring one’s thoughts home to perhaps reveal a mystery within. It occurred to me that within and without are but two ends of a spectrum of awareness and existence.

The mysteries of road and cosmos coming together called to me. Metaphorically I didn’t know where the road led beyond that curve. How could I when I knew it would lead each of us to our own destinations? That was the fascination for me. This road led anywhere. Even if it takes one nowhere, then that is where one is. What is beyond the bend for you?
One road may take you home. Another leads you away. And some will take you inside yourself. Where are you going today? Humboldt County, California. Pre-dawn, March 17, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • One road may take you home. Another leads you away. And some will take you inside yourself. Where are you going today? Humboldt County, California. Pre-dawn, March 17, 2019.


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Monday, March 18, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Here at the Edge

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 10:57 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
The vastness of things often comes home to me while I’m photographing at the edge of the continent or beneath the stars. To the east is the grounding solidity of the great North American land mass, to the west the immense Pacific Ocean stretches far beyond the horizon, and above, the field of stars. And there I am, just a tiny thing standing unnoticed.

Right next to that thought is the realization that it’s all relative. How very small these things are, like landmasses. Or the planet itself. Think about it: If you stood far enough out from our globe that the Earth was about golf ball size in your view, how small would be that film of atmosphere clinging to its surface? Could you even see it? At that scale, it wouldn’t take much to wipe it right off …
Lights from shore illuminate this great chunk of rock here where the wild coastline intersects with humanity. Above, a satellite’s eye in the sky so high crawled slowly past Orion. Humboldt County, California. February 22, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Lights from shore illuminate this great chunk of rock here where the wild coastline intersects with humanity. Above, a satellite’s eye in the sky so high crawled slowly past Orion. Humboldt County, California. February 22, 2019.
It’s easy to get lost in a feeling of tininess when I realize that everything we understand about the universe is, in fact, a ridiculously minuscule amount of information next to what’s out there not yet understood, most of which will never be known by us. We learn and grow in our understanding of the universe around us all the time as we observe and experiment, but we will never be able to fit into our heads, nor into all the computer banks our civilization will ever produce, a complete model that describes it all. There are a lot of variables.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

North Coast Night Light: Freshwater Lagoon

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Sept. 2, 2018, at Freshwater Lagoon. - PHOTO BY DAVID WILSON
  • Photo by David Wilson
  • Sept. 2, 2018, at Freshwater Lagoon.
Sometimes a creative urge will drive me nutty unless I can find a way to make something. I’m an artist but I am only interested in one medium: photography, which of course includes working with photos after taking the picture, whether with current digital tools or in the darkrooms of old as I started out. At the moment I am driven to take nighttime photos. I don’t know why. I just go with it.

But it can conflict with my highly developed inclination toward self preservation when it comes to places I don’t feel safe to be alone at night. There are times when I want terribly to go photograph but can’t find anyone to accompany me. Family and friends are wonderful companions, and they have given me many of their nights to come out with me to make long exposures or paint with light in the dark of night. I am grateful for the time they’ve given me and for the times yet to come. Thank goodness for them.

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