Photography: The direction of time

A photograph of a glass teacup and saucer appearing to float against a dark background with blue and red light painting creating shapes in and around it.


The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.


Stephen Hawking

I extra love this quote because it’s referenced in Hannibal (the book and the TV show) where Dr Lecter talks about smashing a teacup on purpose and how one day it might gather itself back together. Maybe he was just talking about the dream of something broken becoming unbroken. Maybe he was talking about the expansion and contraction of the universe and the direction of time. Maybe both.


About the photo itself, it was shot in my kitchen in almost-darkness. I would’ve gone for complete darkness but I was working with glass and a camera on a tripod, and I had to move around a bit, so I didn’t want to destroy anything. The glass teacup and saucer were sitting on the glass flippy-down lid of the stove. The stove itself and the tiles behind it are black, so because I was using very specific and directed light sources, I was able to play with angles to make it look like the cup was floating. Or falling. Or flying.


The light came from a laser pen, originally purchased as a cat toy before I thought about the potential for its use in light painting photos. It has two settings – a very fine red point and a broader bluish-white point. I held the pen in my hand, wrapped in a black tea towel so it didn’t show up in the picture, and shot with a 10 second exposure so I had plenty of time to draw with the light.


I have so many more ideas for light painting, especially combining it with vapour and smoke, and I’ve really missed shooting complex set-ups like this, so I’m planning more pictures already.

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