WAKE UP TO THE LIGHT FAN­TAS­TIC

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

Just oc­ca­sion­ally I look at a part of my gar­den and think: “It looks mag­i­cal to­day.” In­vari­ably it is all about the way it is catch­ing the light. Gar­dens have five di­men­sions: the usual length, height and width, plus time – through the sea­sons and the years. Then there is light. Light is pos­si­bly the most fun­da­men­tal and the most dif­fi­cult to ar­tic­u­late. You know it is im­por­tant, you at­tempt to use it, but pos­si­bly don’t grasp its full po­ten­tial. To un­der­stand it more I spoke to four peo­ple whose work de­pends on it. Peter Gibbs, the BBC weath­er­man, ex­plains why light varies. Light is of­ten cool or harsh in the early morn­ing. It can be “flat”, fre­quently highly un­flat­ter­ing dur­ing the mid­dle of the day. Then in the evening, light is of­ten warm and al­most tex­tu­ral. I had al­ways thought the sky was blue be­cause it re­flects the sea, but ap­par­ently not. It is blue be­cause sun­light from the blue end of the spec­trum is scat­tered most eas­ily by the dust and gases in our at­mos­phere. But, the longer the path it trav­els through the at­mos­phere, the more it is scat­tered. At sun­rise, sun­set and dur­ing the shorter days of the year, the sun­light reaches us obliquely, trav­el­ling at shal­lower an­gles for a longer dis­tance, so most of the blue and vi­o­let light is scat­tered away and we are left with the fab­u­lous warmer or­ange and red hues. By con­trast, the in­tense light of an over­head sun in sum­mer tends to be dom­i­nated by the cen­tral, yel­low part of the spec­trum. This light is of­ten flat and un­kind to gar­dens. Peter also points out that weather can have an im­pact. Southerly winds or long set­tled spells tend to in­crease the amount of dust in the air, en­hanc­ing or­anges and reds. Wash­ing out the dust with rain, or bring­ing in cleaner air from the At­lantic or the po­lar re­gions will re­duce the ef­fect and give sharper, colder light. Mar­i­anne Mar­jerus (mar­i­an­nema­jerus.com) has won awards for In­ter­na­tional Gar­den Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year 2010 and Gar­den Me­dia Guild Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year in 2011. She is known for her sub­lime abil­ity to cap­ture light. “Back-light­ing plants that have a strong form can be sen­sa­tional,” she says. Al­li­ums, echinops, fox­gloves and grasses, for in­stance, with the sun shin­ing be­hind them, stand out. The al­li­ums ap­pear to have ha­los around them and sun set­ting be­hind a clump of sti­pas can look like “liq­uid gold”. When you have ele­ments lit from the side, the light­ing re­ally picks out the re­lief and tex­ture. This ex­plains why I am al­ways trans­fixed when I view our meadow (an old me­dieval vil­lage cov­ered with humps and bumps) from the kitchen win­dow in the evening. The meadow faces north and it is lit obliquely from the west. The an­cient grassy lumps are em­pha­sised in the low, warm red light. Dur­ing the day in over­head light you hardly no­tice their rise and fall. The low light streams through the long, flow­er­ing meadow grasses in sum­mer evenings, and the side-lit Soay sheep an­i­mate it; the view is framed by two dark wings of yew hedg­ing. It is sim­ple, but ex­traor­di­nar­ily strik­ing. Early morn­ing light is also oblique, but ap­pears far colder than in the evening. In the cooler tem­per­a­tures, more dust has set­tled so it is clearer and has fewer warm red hues. Mar­i­anne finds it can be too harsh. Though she says when you get mois­ture, such as an early morn­ing mist, en­ter­ing the equa­tion it adds a beau­ti­ful, al­most ethe­real di­men­sion. Mar­i­anne loves look­ing through a dark frame to some­thing lit be­yond, the frame maybe be­ing hedges, door­ways, win­dows or pergolas. Fram­ing dif­fer­ent

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