Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eternal Sunshine of the Arctic Mind

As the sunshine created a bright orange glow in my tent last “night” at 2:30AM my body was exhausted from a 17 ½ hour day, but my mind was struggling with the concept of 24hr sunshine. The sun is in constant rotation yet never seems to reach its apex above us nor set below the horizon. This creates the illusion of eternal afternoon sunlight from around 6pm to 10am the following day. As I said, its an illusion to the mind to keep working, however the body eventually fights back, takes over, and forces you to rest.

This low light is often referred to as the magic hour, as the sun is low on the horizon which creates soft and deeply shadowed lighting. Here in the arctic we have come to refer to its as the magic 8 hours. It’s a photographers dream. The colors are vivid and the textures are amplified. Even in this seemingly barren landscape, the low light adds drama to the images.
Underwater, the magic hour is not so flattering. With the light low in the horizon it does not have the angle to penetrate through the water as effectively and illuminate the shipwreck. It also limits the angles or options one has to shoot from. Wide angle images that are shot toward the sun appear washed out and flat. This causes the best images to be created with the sunlight behind the photographer which is fine on occasion but not very conducive to capturing underwater archeologist working on the ship. In my years of working with these underwater scientist, although accommodating, very rarely do they like to be prodded and asked to move positions to accomplish their measured drawings for the sake of better light.

Regardless, the sun still shines. The pace of work does not slow down as the team is suffering from the same mind verses body conflict as the hours tick by. Its has become the norm to work both day and night with dive operations running from before lunchtime through 2-3AM. Although the “night” may not be yielding the best underwater light, the bitter cold, North wind has been trending toward a calm this time of night which makes the diving operations somewhat more accommodating. All in all as much as the eternal sunshine plays tricks on ones mind and body, I believe it to be much better that the opposing seasons of eternal darkness and -30 temperatures. 

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