Emptiness, Peace and Quiet

On the evening this photograph was made, the dominant sound in this airport parking lot was birds—a stark contrast to the busyness and clamor of cars, shuttle-busses and conversations that once pervaded it day and night for several years. The difference between the activity then and the serenity I experienced is heightened, I think, because the central structure existed, literally, to provide shelter. Ironically, the emptiness of the space in this image sort of fulfills the site’s purpose aesthetically by conveying the sensibilities of rest and peace.

The emptiness and quiet of the landscape encourages me to reflect upon its elements. Had there been cars, shuttle-busses and people in the photograph, my attention would have been drawn to the human rather than physical aspects of the image. Instead, the simplicity of elements and the long shadows direct my attention to the expanse of asphalt. I think of the forest it must have replaced, the animals and birds that were displaced, the mountains of sand and gravel, oil and paint that were used in its construction. It’s not that I object to this use of natural resources. I don’t. Building is what we humans necessarily do—it’s the activation of energy that flows from the desire to create and advance.

In addition to the raw materials that it took for this landscape and shelter to exist, I appreciate the army of individuals who envisioned, designed, leveled, supplied and built them, including the electricians who wired it for lighting and those who manufactured the glass and aluminum. Having traveled in countries where paved roads and electricity were barely functional, this facility stands as a testament to the power of collaboration.

The emptiness of a space designed to facilitate the movement of lots of people has a haunting quality. Not in a spooky way, but in the sense that purpose here is at rest. And because everything looks fairly new—no weeds pushing up through the asphalt, no fallen light poles or broken glass—there is the hope of renewal. (And that hope has recently been realized. Today, this parking lot is back in action).

In serenity we touch impermanence, ebb and flow, rising and falling, coming and going. It gives rise to peace and quiet, the place in us where purpose discovers its most appropriate and creative action.

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. 

James Allen
About This Image

I took an overnight visit to Wilmington, Ohio because the wide open fields provided an opportunity to use my 4×5 view camera. The airport had been a huge sorting center for DHL until the shipping company moved elsewhere in 2009. When I visited in 2011 there was very little activity, no planes flying in or out. Thus, the absence of people and cars in the parking lot.

Arriving there just moments before sunset, I saw the cast shadows, stopped the car and worked quickly to set up the tripod and change the lens. If the sun went behind the trees, the streaming effect would be lost. TheMyprocess was anything but serene.

The 90mm wide angle lens distorted the light poles considerably, especially at the edges. So I made the vertical correction in Lightroom. By doing so, some of the bottom of the image was lost. But I decided to sacrifice even longer shadows in the foreground for the lack of distortion.


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