Writing With Light

Antique Photography Bellows Camera

The word “Photography” literally means “Writing With Light.”

When we hear someone say “I wanna take pictures,” there is a really good chance that what the person is saying is that they want to take a selfie, or a small group of people get together and take a selfie. There is also a really good chance that even if they are going to take a picture of an event or of a building, it’s going to be done with a cell phone. The quick snap is taken and the person moves on to the next million thoughts, social shares, etc.

Another case that I see many times is a person with a digital camera taking a picture of a couple that are on vacation. Maybe in front of a water fountain. Again, a quick snap and everyone moves on their marry way.

What I haven’t seen in the last few decades is a person with a camera taking the time to analyze their surroundings, set up a camera, do some scribbling on a piece of paper and then sit there, and wait, and wait some more. As an observer, one would think that the person with the camera is going to retire sitting in that one spot.

Just about the time that you are thinking about going over to them to check to see if they are still alive, the person with camera jumps up! looks around, takes one or two pictures and proceeds to tear everything down, pack it all up and walk away, leaving you the observer to scratch your head wondering what all that was about.

What the observer did not realize is that the photographer was waiting very patiently for the exact right time to activate the shutter to produce an image such the one below.

Writing with light is a lost art form that many do not realize the joy that can be achieved when the photographer is quietly sitting in a darkroom, patiently waiting for the developer to process the negative that came out of the camera, then run it through the wash cycle and finally hang it up to dry as they sit again, waiting for this magic image to appear on the negative that they just processed.

As the image comes into focus, it is then that the photographer gets to cheer, smile, look around and know, there is no one there to share their joy and no one else that can understand what was just accomplished, but the result always looks amazing hanging on the wall, waiting for a person to see it and think “wow!”


From the very early beginnings of photography, humans have always envisioned what a subject might look like if it was photographed and then start thinking about all the math that is involved, the setup, the timing, how to lug around boxes full of equipment and finally, will they get chased off by someone that could not understand the trial-and-error, to capture the one fleeting microsecond moment in and of time.


In a time of busy busy busy cannot think about taking one second of time to look around to see the wonderment of our planet, it is easy to see why that one person sitting there for 15 minutes to 4 hours looks completely out of place. Then months later, we run into a picture on the wall and that picture forces the brain to stop, think, ponder and wonder how it was done and by who it was done, not knowing that the person they were standing right next to, questioning their sanity, was in fact the person that captured the image and precisely the right time.


It is only then do we think. It is only then that our brains take the time-out to realize that there is so much under appreciated wonderment on our planet.