Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Frozen Impermanence

On Oahu's north shore is an extraordinary little beach called Laniakea Beach. It is also called Turtle Beach because visitors are usually treated to the amazing sight of green sea turtles swimming close to shore to feed on seaweed growing amidst the rocks. More often than not, visitors will also find several turtles basking gently on the sand, alongside tourists and locals (who are all doing pretty much the same thing).

The photograph shown above was taken in July, while my wife and I were on a much-needed rest-trip to Hawaii, and were (on this day) utterly mesmerized by these magnificent (and somehow, inexplicably, at least to me, magnificently regal) creatures. What caught my photographic (and philosophical) eye as I was watching "Russell" (which is this particular turtle's name; since they frequent the beach so often, they inevitably interact with their human counterparts on a first-name basis;-), beyond Russell's obvious innate beauty, is how wonderfully this tranquil beach scene illustrates the "paradox" of the permanent transience of nature.

The exposure here is quite long (~30 sec or so, made possible by stacking a polarizer on top of a six f-stop neutral density filter and gently frightening the beachcomber onlookers out of the viewfinder by placing my camera on a rather imposing tripod). The result is that while Russell remains tack sharp (indeed he did not move at all during the two hours my wife and I were observing him!), the water has been rendered as an ethereal fog.

The image thus represents an interesting blend of disparate time scales: the hint of waves, lapping on to shore every few seconds (along with the implicit rise and fall of the associated tide), the day-long silent but ostensibly "frozen" basking of the turtle, and the much-longer times during which the rocks themselves appear to be unchanging and anchored to the sand (which, too, in the spirit of our musing on the illusions of permanence, we know will eventually fade away with time). To which we can also add the ~1/40th sec worth of intuitive-mind "processing" that took place behind the lens, during which yours truly saw Russell, the water, and the rocks (and felt the ever-present "push" of Oahu's strong trade-winds) and immediately thought, "Ahh! What a lovely, lovely self-contained universe of frozen impermanence!"...and clicked the shutter.

For another glimpse of frozen impermanence, and another clue about the nature of illusion and reality, my wife and I visited the western shore of Molokai, which is where I suspect infinity goes to rest every once in a while...


Andy Frazer said...

The wide shot of the Molokai beach (MG_9192) is the one that does it for me. There's so much energy in the clouds, yet the ocean is so peaceful. Nice work.

Andy Frazer

Ayelet said...

Awesome. Truly.