Gallery: let there be light
There are two kinds of light ~ the glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures.James Thurber
The sun bathes us in natural light, even when covered by cloud. But for part of each day it is hidden from our sight, lighting the other side of the world. Our ancient ancestors learned to make fires, to keep the threats that darkness held at bay (as well, of course, to keep themselves warm). Since then mankind has developed all sorts of artificial ways to mimic the light of the sun when it disappears at night.
But we didn’t stop there. Having developed these sources of artificial light we got creative with them, using them not just for practical purposes but also to make our world more beautiful. For this week’s Lens Artists Challenge I want to share some examples of places around the world where people have used artificial light for decorative purposes. Of course tastes vary, so we may not all find all of these equally attractive, but the underlying concept of all is the creation of beauty.
More and more, so it seems to me, light is the beautifier of the building.Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
In recent years in January (apart from 2021) London’s Canary Wharf area hosts a festival of Winter Lights. It’s a free festival of light installations and illuminations, dotted around the area in parks, in the waterway, and even up on a roof. We last went in 2019 when I took these photos.
I also compiled a video of some of the installations. I’ve removed much of the sound as it was just the chatter of passers-by and the shouts of excited children. But I did leave one section as the music is an integral part of the installation. The video is a little long but it does give a good sense of the variety of pieces, most of which are designed to be seen in motion.
A year earlier, in 2018, we went to another London festival, Lumière. This showed light displays and installations all over the city, but we focused on the West End area, around Piccadilly and Leicester Square.
In front of the Royal Academy, London, during the Lumiere Festival in 2018
Functional buildings can be made beautiful by lighting, as these stations demonstrate.
The roof of Kings Cross station in London
At Kyoto station we found a long staircase studded with tiny lights that changed to create designs and drawings. Escalators ran up either side so you could ascend for a closer look, then walk down the stairs. As people descended their silhouettes added to the mysterious effect, blocking different areas of lights.
A staircase in Kyoto Station, Japan
I was so taken by that staircase in Kyoto station that I shot a video of it as the patterns changed:
Outside the station artificial light was in use to illuminate the dancing fountains. Time for another video!
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
This bridge spans the River Tyne, linking Gateshead to the south with Newcastle to the north. It was commissioned by Gateshead council to mark the 2000 millennium, hence the name. The aim was to contribute to the revitalisation of Gateshead’s waterfront by making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to visit from already-revitalised Newcastle Quayside – an aim in which it succeeded. The bridge is lit up at night in a pattern of changing colours.
Gateshead Millennium Bridge at night
Here are a few more examples of artificial lighting used decoratively from around the world.
Four views of the Mirror Stream Fountain in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam (also in my featured photo)
Entrance to the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi
Khimsar Fort Hotel in Rajasthan
It’s been fun pulling together this selection, reminding me of some of the beautiful lighting displays I have seen around the world!
All of them stunning… and the stairs in the Kyoto station are just WOW!
Thanks so much Teresa 😀 I reckon like me you’d be transfixed by those stairs for quite some time!
Definitely. I can imagine that!
Great lens artistery at night phography ,Sarah ! Stunning photograph of Winter lights,Lumiere ,Millenium bridge,Kyoto station,Dancing fountains,Lanterns,Presidencial palace-Abu Dhabi & the Khimsar fort,India !I n2019 ,we have been to Eindhoven(Netherlands) on a 2-months trip to reunite with our son & daughter-in law who are serving in Phillips there!Every year the also celebrate the Light festival which I have described in my blog on my site!Thanks for sharing the themed galleries😊
Wow. Personally, I think night photography is tough, and to catch the brilliant colors and lights the way you did…fantastic. Dang girl! You got it figured out. The images are beautiful. I was most taken by the Presidential Palace at Abu Dhabi. Not only was it a brilliant color, I was thinking, we are looking at it as a photo, and to see what surrounds it, gives us an idea of its size. Must have been quite beautiful. Nice collection. Donna
Thank you Donna 🙂 That Presidential Palace is something else!! Bear in mind, my photo is just of one entrance gate. The whole thing is huge and sprawling. I was fortunate to get a tour inside, as part of the work I was doing over there, but I wasn’t allowed to take a single photo once through the gate, unfortunately 🙁
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Wonderful collection of colorful night images, Sarah. Love your lanterns…Hoi An sure is magical!
Thank you Jane 🙂 I agree, Hoi An is magical and we had the ‘bonus’ of visiting at the very start of the pandemic when already Chinese people were unable to travel, so it was less crowded than I believe it would usually be, although still busy. To be honest we preferred Luang Prabang as Hoi An seemed a bit too self-consciously pretty, but we couldn’t help but love it at night!
What an interesting and strange time to be there. Agree Luang Prabang was amazing and Hoi An spectacular at night.
It was! We were interviewed by a young reporter for a Vietnamese TV station who wanted us to say how little bothered we were about travelling at that time (which was indeed the case, as we hadn’t realised the full seriousness of the situation at that point). He was anxious that businesses in the town were suffering as the numbers of tourists decreased and wanted to encourage people to come. It’s sad to think that tourism will have collapsed entirely. I wonder how those businesses are coping now?
When I think back to March of 2020, we were so naive about what was ahead. Of course, how could we have predicted this? It’s sad that so many businesses, large and small, have failed.
Yes, absolutely 😥
Got to go with the Millennium Bridge, though I know there’s a much wider world, Sarah.
I do love that bridge! I was in Newcastle last week with friends and enjoyed showing them the Quayside at night and especially the changing lights on the bridge 🙂
Terri Webster Schrandt
Fabulous night and light photography, Sarah! A wonderful gallery of color and festivity. There is something so special about the illuminated fall leaves and the hanging lanterns!
Thanks so much Terri, I’m glad you liked these 🙂
Oh, the Places We See
Absolutely love the Kings Cross Station photo — what a brilliant shot! You have some dynamic color in all of yours, and that opening photo sets the stage. Nicely done!
Thank you 😀 Although I think most of the credit for that Kings Cross shot must go to the person who designed the lighting there!
This was a fun post with gorgeous examples! Loved it!
Thank you – I enjoyed pulling it together 🙂
A lovely gallery of photos Sarah. As soon as I saw the title and cover photo I figured we would be flying by Hoi An. The Kyoto Station staircase is something else…
Thanks Leighton 🙂 We spent ages watching and photographing that staircase! The whole of Kyoto Station is pretty amazing, architecturally, and worth spending some time in.
Stunning photos and videos as usual, but for me the surprise was learning that that the Millennium Bridge is illuminated after dark. I never realised, as this part of the world is usually a day-trip destination for us.
Thank you Margaret 🙂 Yes, the Millennium Bridge is always illuminated and the colours shift as you look at it – I love it!
These are stunning Sarah, so many images you’ve collected.
Thank you very much Alison 😊
Great selections, great variety. You don’t miss a thing!
Thank you John, I appreciate the compliment 🙂
I’m with Ann-Christine Sarah – WOW is the only word for your post this week. The light shows you photographed are just incredible, and the photography is really challenging for exhibits like that. You captured them really perfectly.
Thanks so much Tina 😊 I’m always happy when I get a ‘wow’ for my posts!!
Wow! Those stairs in Kyoto! Loved your videos of different, spectacular lights! My favourites still are – the Vietnamese lanterns.
Thank you Ann-Christine 🙂 I had fun sorting through my files to find these and was surprised how many different places I could bring together for this post. I love those lanterns too – Hoi An was magical at night!