It was another tough day at the blog. Blank screen fever. Maybe it’s some kind of holiday funk or full-moon insanity. You’d think with some 30,000 images on file I could find one that I liked—at least for a day. But, today it all looked like garbage.
So, I took my camera out for its usual walk. I went past the old cars (all were still in their usual places, thank God) and my tree (still standing). I clicked my way along the old rail path. The exercise was good, the inspiration ordinary. Once you’re in a funk it’s hard to shake.
Suddenly I saw it. There is an abandoned railway station in Larkspur that has interested me for years. The path I walk on is the old bed for the now-missing tracks. The station has a ghostly feel to it, I sometimes imagine the sound of the train as I pass by it. I wonder who might have been in the station and what stories the old building might hold. On the stucco wall of the station there is always a shadow as delicate as gossamer. I’ve photographed it forever, always disappointed with the result. Today it was different. The sun, being so low in the late-autumn sky, somehow acted as like a lens on one of the shadows, bringing it into focus on the wall. A crooked tree branch emerged from the normally soft shadow, dancing along surface of the station.
Its sharper shadow seemed to bring to life the ghosts of the building. And the resulting photo is different than any I’ve taken of the dancing shadow. It seemed to call attention to a fleeting moment that is now gone. The shadow most assuredly has moved. Like the train tracks it is no longer there. And while the shadow’s life was shorter than that of the station or its tracks, its impermanence unites it with everything else there is.
I suspect that tomorrow’s version of the dancing shadow will be different yet, perhaps reverting back to its normally blurry self. It took 100 bad photos of the dancing shadow to realize the image I’m showing today. Photography is that way.