SPEAKER: So those are the three basic qualities that any light has. It has direction. It moves in a line. It has brightness. And it has color. But there's a lot more to light. How does light work in space?
Light, how it is formed in space, how those three qualities are manipulated in space or seen in space, I call the distribution of the light in space, the shape of the light. Is part of a room darker and the other part lighter? Is there a patch of red light somewhere and a patch of blue light somewhere else?
If you go outside at night, you'll see those orange sodium vapor street lights. Yet right nearby, there might be blue fluorescent lights. So light is distributed through space.
Just as light works in space, it also works in time. It is a time-based medium, one of the few visual time-based media. Every time you turn on a light switch in a room, you are changing light through time, changing the brightness. Every time you see a sunset, what's happening? The direction is changing. The angle of the light is getting lower. The color is changing as it goes through the atmosphere, and the brightness is changing as we get darker and it goes towards dusk.
So that aspect of light, working through time, we call movement. It can be a car headlight moving, sweeping the light from side to side, or it can be as simple as the movement of light to dark when we turn off the lights as we're leaving a room.
We can't underestimate the power of time and movement in light. Our eyes, as we have said, are always adjusting. They're always making movement to light, even if the light itself isn't changing. What we see as being bright becomes less bright as our eyes adjust to it. Or what we see as being dim becomes brighter as our eyes adjust.
Colors are adjusted as our rods and cones adjust to things. If you've ever worn colored sunglasses outside on a sunny winter day, and then you take them off, the snow and everything turns the opposite color. So our eyes are constantly adjusting and creating movement as we also create the movement with light.
Think about sunlight coming through a window. It's a single direction, creating sharp shadows on everything it strikes. Now, put a sheer drapery in front of that window and what happens? Because the light is being transmitted and reflected through the fabric as well as absorb some, the angles are scattered, creating a diffused light. The shadows get less sharp and we create a texture or diffusion through angle.
Or think of an incandescent or regular light bulb and how it creates a point source of light that makes sharp shadows. Now think of a fluorescent tube, that the light is coming from multiple angles along a four foot or eight foot or however long the fluorescent tube is span. The light is more diffused because the angles are scattered.
Now, let's think about these all together, how angle, brightness, color, texture, distribution, and movement can all work in a single natural phenomenon. Think of a sunset. It's a sunny afternoon. Maybe the clouds go in front of the sun. Suddenly, the light is diffused. The texture of the light has changed.
Then as the sun sinks, the angle of the light getting lower, maybe it picks out from under the clouds. The angle is lower, and the color has changed because the light is going through more of the atmosphere, giving us the brilliant colors of the sunset.
Finally, the sun goes below the horizon and the brightness changes. It begins to get dark. The distribution is even, but gets softer, and suddenly we're into night.
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Often we only pay attention to light in extreme cases--it's too dark or too bright. But the middle part of that continuum is where it gets interesting. The quality, color, and amount of light shape our understanding and are used for aesthetic purposes in visual media and in living spaces. Join E.D. Intemann in an exploration of the fascinating use of light.
This video is part 10 of 12 in the Poetry of Light series.