Finding Beauty in Darkness

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of the times or because of recent personal events but I’m finding myself increasingly identifying with the songs and words of the late, great Leonard Cohen.

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

from You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen

For many reasons 2019 promises to be a tumultuous year for all of us. Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, climate change or Donald Trump I think it’s beholden on all of us to try and avoid “killing the flame” and seek some beauty in darkness.

There are many ways when creating images to seek out beauty when at first there seems to be none. Find interesting colours in a rusty door or in lichen growing on a tree. Look for interesting contrasts caused by the interplay of light and shadow. Seek out interesting and unusual shapes in piles of rusty metal. Focusing in close or finding new angles can often enhance the effect you are seeking.

Here is some advice, based on the thoughts of the author and columnist Stephanie Lam writing in Breathe Magazine, on ways of capturing beauty out of darkness when making images.

    1. Choose a scene or a building that you’ve dismissed before as too plain or even downright ugly.
    2. Focus on a small part of the scene (hint: a macro lens may be useful).
    3. It is sometimes all too easy to make an image then walk away – don’t do this. Force yourself to seek out new angles, wait until the light changes to see what new contrasts or colours are revealed.
    4. Focus in even more and look for detail that is pleasing to the eye. Sometime what you leave out is more important than what you keep. Part of a scene taken out of context can introduce mystery and intrigue.
    5. Repeat. Seek out beautiful elements as often as you can. Set yourself the challenge of looking for beauty, when you may think there is only “ugly”, on a regular basis.

Here are some images of mine where I have tried at least some of these techniques.


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