It’s the first day of Spring, but it’s still cold, overcast and windy. A typical March for Cincinnati. I selected this image because it accurately reflects my emotional circumstances. February here was cold and snowy, but no where near the severities experienced by those to the south and northeast, so that was a blessing. However, the gloomy don’t-want-to-go-out-or-do-anything weather combined with a head cold that took three weeks to overcome had me in the dark—at the bottom of the staircase.

The stairway risers still looks a bit challenging, but the light of Spring at the top urges me forward, to rekindle the zest that lurks inside. By the time I get to the top of the stairs I will have made good progress on indoor projects, so when I open the door questions both practical and creative will be revealed.

Step by step, one at a time—the crocuses and daffodils are coming up. Blades of greed grass are pushing through the yellow lawn. The geese are returning to the golf course pond behind us and we’ll be making trips to the garden store. I’ve already started wearing a lighter jacket. Approaching the door at the top of the steps, I’ll be changing out my winter clothes for short sleeve shirts and shorts. And it’ll be time to go outside again with a camera. Isn’t it wonderful to see light at the end of the—stairway?

Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’

Robert Orben

About This Image

Title: Light At The End Of The Stairway

Theme: Transition

File #: 781-C1

Location: Shakertown, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

I’ve long been attracted to Shaker simplicity and textures. Their architecture, both interior and exterior, reflects a strong tendency toward symmetry, convergence and the use of window light. They were also keen to center a room using a grandfather clock or a chalkboard—in this case, a window, which is itself symmetrical. Although the handrail breaks the symmetry with the opposing wall in this image, it creates an equally powerful vector that points to the window. The banister, stairway and wall moulding create a convergence that draws our attention. And that was no accident. Certainly, the architect pre-visualized it. I imagine he or she also saw its statement as a metaphor for life as an ascent.

This was a challenging exposure situation for me. Fortunately, I had a Spot Meter with me, so I took the reading off the white wall at the top of the stairs. That would render the walls near the window as middle gray. The other values, from black to bright white fell into place accordingly. I’ve printed this with more detail in the shadows, but I prefer this version so the eye leads up the stairs. The solid, rather than detailed black areas provide a nice frame.

2 thoughts on “Transition

  1. David,
    I was there as well a few years ago. Stillness and Light is an amazing photographic book which I purchased later.
    It’s written by an architect who has done several other photographic books. He includes comment of how their theology affected their architecture such as equality among men and women meant each has light in the workshop room which came from both direction, and neither was favored. He was also able to have the floors and furniture arranged with perfection, and cleaned to perfection. He had a person open the buildings as early times of the day and he could stay, watching the light changes through the day. That would be a remarkable day or two to have that opportunity.
    Now that I think of it, I wonder if there would be a charge for that kind of preparation of a few spaces. since that photographer did such a splendid job, I’d welcome the chance to have the spaces open for just a few people, or so restricted, that nothing would be moved and one could sit and enjoy and notice the light changes… take a walk, read a book, and then return and sit.
    What do you think?

    John Holliger



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