June 21st is the Summer Solstice. It’s the longest day of the year, and the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere.
Historically Midsummer’s Eve has been a celebration of the solstice dating back to ancient times. It was believed that mid-summer flowering plants had amazing healing powers when picked on this night, and huge bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits thought to roam the earth when the sun turned southward again.
The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), because it appears as if the sun stops its course at this point. The sun doesn’t rise precisely in the east during the event, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west creating a longer arc in the sky. The solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. During the event it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It’s a good thing too, because without this small offset we would have no seasons!
This year the solstice occurs at 3:07 AM (Pacific Standard Time), and with nearly 15 hours of daylight it’s the perfect time to explore the great outdoors, have ample time for photography, and maybe even wrap up the day with a barbecue and a bit of stargazing.
June 8th is World Oceans Day – a chance to celebrate the bodies of water that make up 70% of our planet and provide food, recreation and place to rejuvenate the spirit. As home to an estimated 230,000 marine species, our oceans are a vast wilderness with ecosystems critically linked with our own. Unfortunately many of the earth’s inhabitants never see or experience our oceans, yet our impact through pollution and over-fishing has taken its toll.
Organizations such as the The Ocean Project provide a great opportunity to get directly involved in protecting the future of our oceans through personal and community involvement. Working with zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups, they sponsor beach cleanups, educational programs, art contests, film festivals, sustainable seafood events, and other activities that help to raise consciousness of how our lives depend on the oceans and what we can do to keep them healthy long into the future.
The notion of coming together to create symmetry spans the worlds of economics, mathematics, computing, and natural science. Systems that work together to form a more unified whole are greater than the sum of their parts. They are efficient and economical, and equally important on the human side they create a sense of harmony and well-being.
It is a natural human desire for our lives to come to equilibrium as well, and for many the definition of success is living a balanced life. Landscape photography is a wonderful medium in this sense as it provides us with an outlet for creating visual harmony. What we express through our lens is an extension of our personality, and our vision of the world around us.
Webster defines balance as “an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements” and, while the evolution of our photographic vision is an ongoing journey, learning to find balance in your compositions becomes second nature with practice. The juxtaposition of color and form within the frame is often the key. Lens selection and shutter speed give you the freedom to present the world as you see it, and once you are aware of these factors and integrate them into your photography you’ll be well on your way to creating more dynamic and satisfying images.