November 02, 2011

Ephemeral daylight

This is a true story. I’m telling you this because I want this post to be as authentic as possible. I was struggling over how to write about the word “ephemeral”—the word Donna at Garden Walk, Garden Talk selected for this week’s Word 4 Wednesday. I love the idea of this meme, because it is truly challenging!

The first images that came to mind with the word ephemeral were the spring wildflowers so welcome here in April and May. But I wanted to post about something happening in my garden now. Not lacking for things to post about in general, this word was stumping me.

And then it hit me. The word ephemeral is all about time, or lack thereof. That’s why I was struggling so much all along! Time is fleeting.

Berberis thunbergii

More specifically, what is truly ephemeral this time of year is daylight. Here in southern Wisconsin, the sun is currently rising at about 7:30 a.m., and setting at about 6 p.m.—about the time I get home from work. And it’s only going to get worse—especially when we turn back the clocks for Standard Time this weekend. Grrrr…

Not much time to photograph plants except on a vacation day or a weekend. But it’s the perfect topic for a blog post about the word ephemeral!

Euonymus alatus

So, my plan was to head home and capture some quick shots at dusk just before sunset. I left work at about 5:20 p.m. I paused to snap a couple of camera phone shots of the fading light out the window at work. I’m not sure why I did that because the photos are rotten. Anyway, I got into my car and started for home, noticing that the sun was setting fast!

Don’t worry, I drove carefully, realizing that rushing could only cause problems. But as I turned up my street, it hit me how little time I had left. I pulled into the driveway at about 5:45 p.m. and temporarily became distracted as I looked at the clock. I nearly plowed into the corner of the garage.

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Fifteen minutes to try to capture a few dusk shots. And I’m still experimenting with my new camera. A recipe for disaster! Oh, and I had to pop out my contacts first, because they were so dry, I couldn’t see anything closer than an arm’s length away.

So, with about 10 minutes left, I pulled off the camera lens cap and had at it. The results are mediocre, but they perfectly illustrate the point: Sunlight is ephemeral in the North Country in November!

Spiraea japonica

(Oh, and at 6 p.m. when the sun was setting and I was heading inside, my camera batteries died. I guess they’re ephemeral, too.)


  1. I really was kinda laughing because I have been there, done that. You try to beat the sun setting and all seems to get in the way. Knowing there is little time, everything seems to take forever, then things go wrong. Your photos are fine, and you did get a little of the sunset. And like you, our area is getting less sunlight daily. Soon we will be in perpetual gray. Thanks for playing along.

  2. Eeek! That could all have been a lot worse... You made me chuckle, but I am so grateful not to be out at work all day at this time of year, at least I get to see the daylight. I remember that feeling of leaving the house in the dark, returning in the dark, and spending all the hours in between indoors. Worth taking the risk of trying to get a little evening light before the clocks change. Nice post!

  3. haha, this is amusing, as i visualize you rushing at shooting and then the contacts have to be fixed, etc. And you were able to make it, the ephemeral moment, and the photos are lovely. I just suddenly remember the short day plants, which actually are those plants which need long nights, hahaha!

  4. You are better off than us - clocks changed on Sunday and daylight robbed away by 4.30pm. Not good for gardeners!

  5. At this time of year there hardly seems any dusk - one minute it's daylight next its night. Now the clocks have gone back here in the UK by 4.30 the light has almost gone - not much gardening getting done but will have to make up for it at the weekends - weather permitting.

  6. Well I think your photos are great and they capture the moment. That moment in time that is so fleeting as your story proves. The funny thing is that as photographers I think we all relate to trying to get the right shot and the right time and everything goes wrong. That's life!...and that too is fleeting!

  7. That's so funny! You're not alone in chasing those last moments of daylight. They disappear all too quickly. I loved the part about taking the pictures with your camera phone...I've done the same and they are always horrible. I don't know how some manage to get such fantastic shots with their phones.

  8. How I totally feel your pain...I crave the light this time of year and mourn its passing as we move toward the darkest time of year...lovely photos in the fleeting light....

  9. What an excellent way to illustrate the word, ephemeral! I am often fascinated at the difference in the morning light on a plant vs. the evening light. Or the way the bright sun illuminates all the details and the shade deepens the pigment. Great post!

  10. I agree that these W4W's are challenging in a fun way. Daylight is so precious at this time of year. I hate heading out the door in the morning and returning in the evening when it is dark. I can identify with your race to rush home to capture the last bit of daylight. And I laughed when I read about your ephemeral camera batteries!

  11. @Donna: Thanks for the challenge! Even if the photography didn't turn out too well, the story was fun to tell. I will try to be more serious next time. ;)

    @Janet: Thanks! Yes, this time of year is tough when one works in an office all day. I guess the mornings will be brighter next week, so maybe I can fit in some photography before I leave for work.

    @Andrea: Thanks for appreciating my silly humor. The sunsets have been beautiful lately, but I don't have the best angle at my house. Maybe I should drive to the top of a hill on my way home instead. I loved your post, too!

  12. @Catharine: Ouch! 4:30 p.m. is so early! I think that's about as bad as it gets for us at the winter solstice.

    @Elaine: Wow, that's tough. Let's both hope for a great weekend! The light and weather are still great for photography, given a little quality time. :)

    @Karin: Ah, you are too kind. But thank you! I'm trying to set slightly higher standards for myself, but sometimes it's hard to have the right photos for each post.

  13. @Cat: I'm glad I'm not the only one. :) Actually, I've been able to get some decent shots with my camera phone, but the light has to be very bright.

    @Donna: Thanks! Yeah, it's tough isn't it? I think animals that hibernate are very wise.

    @Sage: Thank you. It was actually a lot prettier/sharper than I was able to capture. Boy, you should have seen the sunset on my drive home tonight!

    @Jennifer: Thanks for appreciating my humor. I was getting all serious about getting the right photos, and then realized all the humorous things that happened along the way made a better story.

  14. Indeed sunlight is ... and all captured looks grand! November joy :)

  15. just left a message but Blogger reports
    Input error: Memcache value is null for FormRestoration.

    Seems my message was ephemeral too. Nice take on the word in your chasing daylight tale.

  16. I love this W4W theme. Unfortunately I can't really do memes because my blog is primarily for my customers. It seems we all hate the fading light of fall and turning the clocks back. I wish that was a practice that could end. Maybe we should start a national movement.

  17. You did a great job on this word. I thought the word was hard, too. I agree that light is ephemeral, changing moment by moment. And I hate when the time changes and everything goes dark even earlier! It seems the autumn light is a bit more magical because of it.

  18. I LOVE this post because it's so authentic and true!! I smiled all the way through thinking, "been there, done that", even the part about nearly hitting the garage. Perfect post!!

  19. I love the walk with you for through this Ephemeral post, I get to see your part of the world. So nice and the picturs turn out fine. Autumn is so beautiful!

  20. All the flowers are wonderfully ephemeral and, I'm afraid so, we are ephemeral...
    But let's skip the sadness: your post and your photos are great, and you made me laugh! :D

  21. I hear you! I'm not a fan of the time change, the last thing we need is to lose an hour of daylight this weekend, especially since I don't have all the work done outside. Ha.

    Our time with this weather is definitely ephemeral, too, what a great weekend ahead for us in Wisconsin.

    I really enjoyed your post, so true to life!

  22. Great post, and you are right, autumn light is so gentle and fades so fast, it is ephemeral. I am glad you managed to capture these beautiful shots.

  23. Neat word that's for sure. And as I get older it seems the time speeds by even faster.... or maybe it just that I'm moving slower. :)

  24. @Joey: Thanks! More beautiful days this weekend. We've been blessed!

    @Laura: Teehee. I guess our Blogger sessions are ephemeral, too.

    @Carolyn: Yes, I think we should start a national movement to have the daylight last from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The other option: Hibernate like other mammals.

  25. @Holley: Thanks! Yes, I agree. If I had more daylight hours away from the office, I would savor them. November and December are really tough.

    @TS: Sometimes you have to tell it like it is. :) I always enjoy your sense of humor, too.

    @Autumn Belle: Thanks! The colors are pretty saturated around here this time of year. Soon everything will be white! (And then grey...)

  26. @Dona: I'm glad you had a chuckle. I was thinking "this is ridiculous" while it was happening, but perfect material for the post!

    @Karen: Thanks! Yes, we've truly been blessed in the weather department this year--from May through November, anyway.

    @Masha: You are too kind. But thank you! I will be visiting your blog a lot this winter to see the Roses!

    @Troutbirder: Just seems like there's not enough time to do the things I really love. Maybe it's time to make some changes.

  27. aloha,

    yes sunlight is ephemeral and it provides opportunities for making amazing photographs.

    thanks for sharing these thoughts

  28. @Noel: Thank you! I'm heading over to your blog right now for a visit. Aloha!