Gray Matters ~

I've mentioned in posts before that photographers are attracted to shiny things. Well anyway, unrepentant gearheads like me certainly are, but the larger truth is much more interesting. It's not the shiny things that possess us so, it's really the gray matter that occupies our daily minds, and I'm not talking about our brains (tempting though that is.) Gray dominates our photographic way of thinking: neutral gray, 15% gray, grayscales, 256 shades of gray in a jpeg, and more. I was put in mind of this by a conversation I had this week with a client in Honolulu; as we texted back and forth (yes, texted; who talks anymore?) he expressed his sympathy that we in Oregon were about to enter into our gray and rainy season. His intentions were sincere, but I told him, in the friendliest Oregonian manner I could muster, to kindly put a sock in it.

This is, after all, what I live for; I celebrate the first day of Fall and all that it portends. We've been taught that it was always preferable to take a portrait outdoors when it was overcast, but that's not what turns me on. It's the colors. When it's gray, when the light is soft and diffuse, colors truly come alive and express themselves with poetry instead of prose. They're not hiding in deep shadows, nor burned away in the light of a cloudless sky. They get to sing. And let me tell you, autumn is just about as beautiful here in the Northwest as it is anywhere in the world. Plus -- from a purely practical standpoint, mind you -- it's far more pleasurable to wander about in a clement atmosphere. Nobody wilts more in the mid-day sun than a pasty Oregonian, nor bitches quite as much about it. There. I've said it.

But there's really more to it than that even, and it all has to do with mood; both in the scene, and in my head. The kind of gray that dominates our late fall and winters is, in itself, subtly charged with emotion and atmosphere; a particular moody note that permeates the world and which compels me to go forth with camera and raincoat to try and capture. It's quintessentially Oregon. Why else would there be so much coffee up here?

So I say, take joy in the long Northwestern gray, or at least take heart. And to my friends in Hawaii and other sunny climes, take note but don't take pity: we can't help but find something creative in our foul weather and our foul moods. We'll come visit when it gets a little overwhelming, perhaps, and maybe it'll re-charge our batteries, but there is opportunity and optimism in all that gray that you may never understand.

Come to think of it, we probably won't either. But it won't stand in our way.