There’s a thing they do in the movie business (far more in the past, when technical limitations mandated it) where night scenes are shot in daylight through a special filter that darkens the scene. It’s called day for night photography; watch any old noir film and you’ll see it, the darkness that doesn’t look quite right. We roll with such tricks the same way we do hokey CGI effects in modern story-driven films (bonus points if you can name any) – we’re willing to suspend our disbelief.
On holiday in Bintan recently, I took a couple of photos like the one above. It was pitch black and near midnight, but setting my camera to keep its shutter open for a full minute, it was possible to gather up all the faint light that normally eludes the human eye, getting a photo that looks very much like day but not quite. The stars are one telltale sign. Who knew that the sun’s orange rays continue to creep past the horizon long after we consider night to have fallen?
For working people, one of the joys of being on holiday in the middle of the week is imagining what you’d be doing if you weren’t, and knowing that your office and colleagues continue to toil in your absence, maybe even suffering because of it. You know the feeling I mean. When it’s Thursday afternoon and you’re lying on a beach somewhere, the mind experiences a strange sensation, a pleasurable disorientation, as it tries to reconcile the information it has. You’re not in a meeting. You’re on a beach. It’s Thursday, but not quite.
I used to wonder if it was possible to get that feeling of freedom on demand, as easily as pulling a filter over a lens. Having a tough day at work? Maybe project a few months into the future, where you have a new job or whatever, and confuse yourself into thinking that that world was running in parallel with the present.
Now that I’m not traditionally employed, I find myself having to take the reverse approach on holidays. For my travel companions, the four days burnt brightly with a sharp peak, followed by a treacherous comedown back into working routine. Not having to feel the pinch of expending precious leave days or returning to deal with crises left my experience curve shallower. I didn’t dread the end as much, so one might say I enjoyed myself less. The solution was a perverse one. I had to imagine a time when this self-employed life was no longer viable. It’s a state that continues to feel temporary, like an illusion made possible by warped optics. Having a job but not quite.
Anyway, I have a nice tan now. Nobody can believe it’s me.
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