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  • Time. Interesting stuff. Ask Prof Hawking. He knows a bit about time. He's patiently thought about it....that, all that thinking.

    So it's just as well we've got it (time) otherwise he'd not have been able to come up with so many theories about it.

    I love it when people try to catch me out and ask "Go on, which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

    And I confound them by saying, "Neither. Time came first. And it fills the space nicely in between the chicken and the egg, whichever way round they arrived."

    And they have to think about that, which obviously takes more time.

    So I thought I'd try to photograph it. Time that is, not a chicken, nor an egg.

    And this is what resulted.

    It's a peaty-black highland river, with a small waterfall close by and as the water tumbles over the fall it froths and gurgles and creates the white foam-flecks. They meander downstream, casually interacting with their friends, a bit like sheep really (although sheep are actually quite bright despite the fact they like to follow each other). The foam responds to various factors, such as wind, but mostly they respond to the tug of the river. And below a fall as the water speeds up it moves and shifts its course around the riverbank, or rocks, and creates swirls and eddies, all invisible. But its movement given substance by the foam. Foam lets you see the eddies, the swirls and turns. But you need time.

    And so the tool of choice is a camera. What many folk don't appreciate is that cameras are time banks. They can store time. They can capture fleeting memories of course, we all know that. But they can also capture things we cannot see, things we only glimpse a portion of, things we witness as one tiny inconsequential fragment.

    Cameras can aggregate those fragments and make them visible for us.

    What does one need? A dull day. Thats the conundrum: how can a lack of light allow a better understanding of time?

    And a polarizing filter? It reduces the light even more, by a significant factor, as a side effect of doing it's job, which is to remove surface reflections from the water, to make the black water look really black (rather than shiny).

    The trick in all of this is to have the least amount of light possible that still allows you to see. Hence dull days, and dark filters. Which in combination lets you see time, as it strolls past.

    And what results, on this dull wet overcast day, with the polarizing filter, is a loooooooooooog exposure. In this case over 30 seconds....long enough for the sloooowwwly moving foam to 'write' the path of its passage on your film. The invisible made visible. How cool is that!

    And a tree? Its rings, juxtaposed to frame the scene, are made of time too, only more solid than foam. And it's a rowan, and they are lucky trees, they keep witches away, but I think that's another time.

    Just as well we have time then....don't you think.....
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