Light as a Sense Memory
One of the interesting things that I've noticed after years of Photography, is that certain types of light act as a sense memory to me. In much the same way that a smell can trigger a memory for many people, I find that seeing a certain quality of light often triggers memories and feelings of nostalgia.
I love the characteristics of light. It doesn't always have to be what one might think of as "good light". Jay Maisel once said "There's no such thing as bad light" and that's so true. Being attuned to the quality and the variety of light is one of the things that I love about being a photographer. I think my work as a 3d artist has helped in this too. Because I've often had to replicate certain lighting conditions, I've broken down and re-constructed the various ways light interplays with subjects to create a scene,and this has given me insight into how light and subject work together. Over the years as a photographer, I've noticed the subtle and not so subtle differences that can occur depending on the weather, the time of year, and your location on the planet.
The more north you go, the light takes on a beautiful blue hue, and when you head towards the equator, everything becomes golden. In winter light can be harsh and unforgiving, but it brings out colours. In Autumn it can be beautiful and warm and golden. The light changes before a storm, it changes with certain types of clouds, and even where you are in a country can affect the light. As the light bounces off buildings in a city, the reflections can give beautiful reflected light. In a forest the green canopy gives a wonderful quality to the soft shaded light from above.
What I've noticed recently though, is every now and again, I'll be looking through the lens, and certain conditions will create a distinct type of light, and that will remind me of a time when I've photographed in those conditions before. A memory forgotten will suddenly spring forward, in response to seeing the light. Something about that act of seeing the light falling on a scene will trigger a strong memory of shooting something before with the same light. Much like a regular sense memory, there is usually an emotional aspect too, with the light triggering happy (or sometimes sad) emotions associated with the memories of shooting in that light too.
Moments like these are one of the many reasons that I love photography. I think it also shows that if you love photography, you sometimes need to photograph just for you too. It's a personal experience when you have this relationship with light, but it's a rewarding and fulfilling one. Sometimes we can get caught up in what we think will be popular or what we think people want to see (or of course, what a client wants) but sometimes it's good to take pictures just for you too.