Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hearts & Flowers...

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day on which people the world over are professing their admiration for those closest to them. It’s lovely that there is a day set aside each year that everyone can count on for sending and receiving messages of amour. For my dad and step-mother the day has added meaning as they were married on Valentine’s Day. It’s truly a day of romance for many.

Valentine’s Day is just another example of using a past event, person, or place, to found a day on. In this case a person (St. Valentine) who has little to do with the rampant expressions of love we see these days. The following quote is from one Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the television show “The Big Bang Theory” (a show I make a point of tuning into each week), and it kind of sums things up:

There are a few schools of thought as to why “Valentine’s Day” is situated in mid-February. One of them is that it was the Church’s way of trying to take the wind out of the sails of the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, and “Christianize” it. (I think some would be surprised at the fact that most, if not all, of the religious holidays throughout the year find their origins with the pagans.)

(Left: Romulus & Remus; Right: Faunus)
The fertility festival of Lupercalia makes more sense when trying to historically link this date with today’s Valentines shenanigans. It was a Roman fertility festival dedicated to the founders of Rome (Romulus and Remus), and the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus (the Greek counterpart being Pan). After sacrificing a dog and a goat to the cause, the priests (a.k.a. Luperci) would cut the hides of the animals into strips, dip them in the sacrificial blood, and travel the streets marking the faces of the city’s women. The women welcomed the marks as it was believed to make them more fertile over the coming year. The Luperci would also tag fields for potential crops with the blood.

The second half of the festivities really speaks to the concept of Valentine’s Day. (Well, I think it does.) All of the single women would add their name to a large urn, and later in the day the city’s single men would draw a name from the urn, pairing up with the gal named for the coming year. It is said that most of those pairings would end in marriage. Whichever side of the Valentines history coin you place yourself on, I wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day & Lupercalia.

The second part of this post is in regards to some recent photos I took that have a Valentine’s Day flavor. No, they aren’t of roses, but the Camellia is a rose-like bloom. These particular photos involve a newly discovered tool for my interest in nighttime photography. I have said it many times when posting my photos…I am not a fan of the camera flash. It takes all of the ‘mood’ out of a photograph. There are elements of dimension that are lost with a flash. Yes, it is much more difficult to do at night, but when I snap a picture of something, I want to capture the image as close to how I see it with my naked eye. Often I will end up with something even more artful than what I saw to begin with. These surprises are only achieved without the use of a flash. When I take a picture I want to capture shadows. I want to capture recesses. I want to keep every nuance that gives a shot depth and mood.

(My trusty flashlight)
A flashlight. That is my newly discovered tool, and night time photography friend. A couple of nights ago we had rain. (Which we need.) Just to the right of the front porch is a Camellia bush. I had noticed a bloom earlier in the day, and decided to experiment with some photos. (Putting a new job into my daily schedule mix has kept me from my daily picture taking jaunts…I was experiencing some heavy withdrawals.)

The porch light was on, but that was not having any real effect. When the light was off nothing was registering at all. That’s when I grabbed the flashlight I had with me. With the camera on the tripod, and the flashlight in my hand, I could angle the light any way I wanted. This might seem like a ‘so what’ moment to some, but it has opened up a whole new avenue for me to explore. Obviously it won’t help when I photograph the moon, but as far as those things that are on ‘my level’, it has changed things in an extremely good way.

Here are some of the fruits of that photo session. I quite like them. The accompanying quotes aren’t so much in the Valentines vein, but involve the color red.

"The true color of life is the color of the body, 
the color of the covered red, the implicit and not 
the explicit red of the living heart and the pulses. 
It is the modest color of the unpublished blood."

~ Alice Meynell

"He liked to observe emotions; they were like red 
lanterns strung along the dark unknown of
another's personality, marking vulnerable points."

~ Ayn Rand

"Out of the ash I rise with my red hair
and eat men like air."

~ Sylvia Plath

"Make a remark," said the Red Queen, "it's ridiculous 
to leave all the conversation to the pudding!"

~ Lewis Carroll

"Perhaps the old monks were right when they tried 
to root love out; perhaps the poets are right when
they try to water it. It is a blood-red flower with
the color of sin; but there is always the scent of 
god about it."

~ Olive Schreiner

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