Leaving work last night after teaching my summer class, I noticed how striking the sunlight was on the pillar and doorway of the “bridge” over the “tree lounge” to the backstage area of the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Campus Center.
(Backstory on the “tree lounge”: It was long the lobby of a bank that rented out part of MSOE’s Campus Center. When the bank departed, the former lobby was turned into a student lounge, instantly nicknamed the “tree lounge” for the ficus trees that remained and were once ubiquitous in bank lobbies across the nation. Two years ago that lounge was taken over by a new program on campus, the CREATE Institute. In came new furniture; out went the trees. Someone with a sense of humor and access to signage-making equipment created a little plaque with an image of a hatchet designating the area as the “Deforestation Lounge.” Sadly now both trees and sign are gone. I kind of liked the trees 😦 )
Several years ago (almost 9 now!!!!) I managed to get a photo of a light-infused autumn-leafed tree just outside my office building as I was leaving work, and moments later the light and magic were gone (which I got a photo of, too). I titled that post “Chasing light – afternoon sun in the city.” So I guess it makes sense to title this one “Chasing Light II.”
So here’s the first image I grabbed with my phone at 8:07 p.m. last night. I was on my way to the back-hall elevator and noticed that the doors to the mezzanine bridge across the tree lounge (which it will remain named forever in my mind) were open, which they aren’t always. The bright rectangles of sunlight really stood out, so I left my rolling briefcase where it was and moved closer to the doors with my phone.
But the first photo didn’t capture the warmth that I was seeing, so I applied a filter and tried again.
Not quite right, either. Then I thought maybe I’d try adjusting the brightness.
Ugh, no. But then I realized that maybe the real problem was that the light was already fading. And sure enough . . .
. . . by the time I took my last photo, time-stamped 8:08 p.m., just moments later, the light was gone.
There’s a term in rhetoric, my academic home field, called kairos. It’s an ancient Greek word meaning “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” (See the Wikipedia article on “kairos” HERE.) Basically the point of kairos is that if you want to persuade others to see things your way or take an action you’d like them to, you have to be alert to the ever-changing contexts surrounding your topic/issue and when the time is right, when all the planets are suddenly (and usually unexpectedly) aligned, etc., you need to recognize and seize that moment to speak and do whatever else is necessary to capitalize on your opportunity and accomplish your goal. Carpe diem, strike while the iron is hot, etc., etc.
I’ve always thought about photography in terms of kairos. Not that you walk around thinking about taking pictures all the time, but just sort of having that mindset underlying everything so that when you recognize a good photo, you’re prepared to drop everything and capture the image.
Really, when you think about it, kairos may be the key to most things, right? Staying alert and open to opportunities in the midst of everything else going on in your life. Recognizing those fleeting opportunities for what they are. And then being prepared enough to act on them before they slip past by ensuring in advance that you’ll always have both quick access to the tools you need and a default response mode that enables you to react without even having to think about it in the moment.