Bulrushes at Dawn

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Bulrushes at Dawn

I had spotted this bed of bulrushes on a small lake near Elk Rapids one evening and resolved to return for the next day for the morning light. I had envisioned a colorful sunrise reflecting off the lake behind the bulrushes, but when my alarm went off at 5:30 it was clear that dawn would be drizzly and gray.

I’ve learned to resist the temptation to climb back in bed on days like this (though I am always sorely tempted). And so with a sense of grudging acceptance, I headed out without much hope. When I arrived I realized that there was a potential that I had not anticipated in the scene. The peaceful curves of the bulrushes seemed gently embraced by the muted light of the cloudy dawn.

There is an interesting quirk of human perception at play in this image. The light of the sun can have different colors depending on the time of day and conditions. Most people are familiar with the warm light of sunset. But you may not realize that the light on a cloudy day has a distinct blue cast.

If you’ve never noticed this it’s because your mind often compensates for the color of the light. You may know that the incandescent lighting in your home has a yellow tone, or that fluorescent lights often cast a greenish hue, but when you are in your home or office you don’t notice this because your mind adjusts your perceptions.

On this morning the light was blue, but I perceived it as gray. Because I’m aware of this phenomenon, I knew that the photos I took would have the blue cast that my mind was masking. Sure enough, when I developed the images, they had a peaceful blue tone that nicely matched the composition of the image.

Now I must confess I took a bit of artistic license. The blue of the original image was not as intense as that you see in this print. When I developed this image I chose a color balance that intensified the color. But I did so in order that the final print would invoke in me the calm and peace I felt on a drizzly morning admiring the beauty of a bed of bulrushes in the light of dawn.

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