Rain and low cloud this evening on the mountain – good conditions for observing (and trying to photograph) the moment when things become indeterminate and disappear. Inside cloud, up high near the top, wind blowing and shoving, light rain now on now off, water pooling all around my feet, and feeling myself to be standing at the centre of a circle of invisibility.
I’ve made a few experiments in finding out what happens when photographic paper and photographic prints are painted with ink
( the answer? it depends on the ink, and to the extent that I had expectations, its not what I expected …)
I’ve brought my mountain notebook in from the pocket of the car door, trying to make sense of the evening visits I’ve been making, maybe trying to find a pattern. I’m going to sort through, put the entries next to the photos and videos that I’ve made, see if anything starts to emerge.
On Wednesday evening I videoed a grimy sunset. It lasted longer than I expected. I balanced my phone on top of a stone at the centre of the bronze age burial circle close to the trig point, and which seemed to face into the sunset. All around me was sky and air and Westerly wind, too much of it that evening. I cowered behind the stone and forced myself to watch the sun slip right down to nothing, and meanwhile the wind numbed my exposed fingers to the bones.
I wrote quite a bit in my notebook back in the car, including that I saw
“clouds pillowing and piled up high, salmon and gold, south leaning. Distances disappearing out to smeary grey. Dirty sun set over the sea, slipping into fog.”
This evening it was warmer, soft rain came after the sunset. I wrote in my notebook
“The sea a shell bright line, pink and soft. Light filling the hollows of the land… Afterwards a soft rain, not cold. Two ravens on the wires.”
I went to the same stone circle, this time with a compass app installed on my phone (it didn’t seem very convincing). I found that the central stone, and also a large single standing stone further down are both aligned roughly the same, one ‘facing’ and one ‘pointing’ towards Caldey Island, just South of West.
(Or the first stone could be facing North of East, but the second stone is far below the brow of the hill, and in a shallow West-facing valley; so if its facing anywhere, it can only be to the South West).
I’d like to guess that the two stones are aligned the same, and for a reason, possibly to point to Caldey, or maybe to align with the direction of the sunset at the winter solstice, which I think might be that way. But I’ll have to get a better compass and consult with an astronomer, or otherwise wait at least eleven months to check, since I did not do it this year. I can at least say that there was no sunset this year at the solstice, only grey misty cloud and according to my mountain notebook:
“grey-white noise, indistinctness. All quiet and softened in, retreating.”
Today I made a new stencil shape based on the kitchen window of the cottage where I grew up, and used it to look up at the evening sky.
a few more small experiments this evening
gusty wind, light rain and a strange glow over the sea
These photographs are taken with a mobile phone camera this evening on Mynydd Llangyndeyrn.
In digital photography, something called ‘noise’ appears in photographs taken at low light levels, making the image grainy.
What we are seeing as graininess is randomness in the image. Either the constantly present randomness in photography – a question of which particular light photons hit the camera sensor in the instant that the photograph is taken; or digital randomness caused by electronic noise from the sensor and the device itself. The conditions were dark this evening, therefore my camera was not able to collect a lot of light, so the randomness or ‘noise’ – which is always present – was this evening overpowering the image or ‘signal’, and the photos were grainy.
I am finding that I am very interested in grainy photographs, and have been deliberately making them – and also experimenting with introducing extra noise into videos and images.
I think especially, I am interested in how low light levels start to break down the camera’s ability to make images, and I find it so interesting to compare that with my own gradual loss of vision over a period of half an hour or so, as the night draws across the mountain from the east.
I have recently been doing some reading about vision and perception, and today re-reading and wrestling with a part about information and noise in perception. These walks on the mountain, and the images that I am making are helping me with making my understanding more practical.
One author I am reading, called Mark Taylor, explains aspects of the neurology of perception, and says that in our perceptual processes, information emerges from noise through progressive processes of ‘screening’.
He also says:
“There is no such thing as absolute noise; or, in different terms, chaos is not the complete lack of order but an alternative configuration that generates static for established schemata. Noise is information in the process of formation. What counts as noise and passes for information is relative to the level at which processing occurs.” (Mark Taylor: Refiguring the Spiritual)
The author points out a number of interesting aspects of these screening processes. Firstly, that the unfiltered data (the light in vision), which is not a ‘complete lack of order’, holds patterns that ‘sculpt’ the eye and brain. Secondly, that when information passes through our perceptual and cognitive screens or filters, the filtered parts do not ‘disappear’, but create resonances which ‘cannot be clearly articulated’. The author likens this to a penumbra, the partial or fuzzy area on the edge of a shadow, between shadowed and lit places. Thirdly, the structures of the filter, the structures distributed across the brain, very much influence and determine the perceptual experience – so seeing both takes a little time, and is made possible through accessing and using memory of past experiences.
This gives what I think is a very interesting model of how perception and thinking work, which the author states is very different from the ‘traditional philosophy of the cogito that informs much of modern philosophy.’
It is a model which includes a ‘cognitive unconscious’. (A way of describing these incredibly complex networks and processes of filtering and processing the information (and noise) which happen outside of conscious awareness).
The model is non dualistic – it doesn’t divide things up into mind and matter. It treats the various processes: light, chemical, mental, as similar – ie. as information and screening processes. Consciousness, thinking, is understood in this model as something which is an ’emergent phenomenon’ of these information processes.
Some days I’d like to have an overview, of my life, of my work. See what the pattern is, that can’t always make out. Climb to the top and look out over the sands and the waters.
As a person might climb to the high point of the castle at Llansteffan, and stand and look over Carmarthen Bay, and try to take a reading from the shifting sands.
Here are some questions:
What and who am I grateful for?
Who do I need to forgive, and do I forgive them?
From whom do I need to seek forgiveness?
And do I forgive myself first of all?
What do I love and who do I love?
How do I choose to live my love?