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Sunlight in Shadow

Sunlight in Shadow
Photo Information
Copyright: John McLaird (jmcl) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 261 W: 4 N: 204] (656)
Genre: People
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-08-26
Categories: Nature, Friends/Family
Exposure: f/5.0, 1/60 seconds
Map: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Date Submitted: 2007-08-26 18:33
Viewed: 2045
Points: 22
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Sunlight in Shadows

Mill Creek Basin Trail
Rocky Mountain National Park

“Bless... the two painting masters who first pointed out to me (raw young pupil that I was) that there was coming and going among trees, that there was sunlight in shadows.” ~ Emily Carr

I took this image as we were hiking the Mill Creek Basin trail in Rocky Mountain National Park today. It was a hot and sunny morning and Andrew was taking a break under the aspen as I was standing precariously on the rocks in the creek. As I finished up my creek images and was putting the tripod away Andrew started tossing stones into the creek and laughing hysterically at each sploosh. At least he waited until I was done with my pictures .. but I was getting quite wet from the splashing. It was I who taught him to toss stones (on the advice of a friend) as a thing for him to do to have fun near water without going in. I used to be on ultra high alert whenever we were along a river or lake. I could have never let Andrew out of my grasp .. let alone set up a tripod and take some shots. Now he has developed an obsessive joy about the sploosh of rocks hitting the water and engages in the activity without fail (often to the chagrin of those nearby attempting to fish).

Mill Creek is my favorite place in the Park for bumbling forest creek images. It is a quiet trail to nowhere that serves to connect some of the Park’s more popular trail systems. Andrew generally hates hiking up mountainsides but for some reason this quiet place has always been one of his favorites even though the trail climbs up the mountain next to the cascading creek. This area is filled with aspen and one of my favorite spots for autumn images.

To give more a sense of place here are some of my last set of images from the place where I was standing when I took this:
Mill Creek II
Mill Creek

When I talk about Andrew I always feel the need to discover a hard to pinpoint balance between on one hand advocating for Andrew and presenting the seriousness of his challenges and on the other presenting his loves and joys. I don’t wish to trivialize his challenges with his joys nor present his life as pure horror.

Andrew has transformed my own concept of what is important about life. In many ways he has been my greatest teacher. It his his joy that gives me more satisfaction and purpose than anything else in my experience.

Which brings me to a strange series of connected events that have evolved into each other. I have always loved hiking. As Andrew grew I began to share this experience with him. The peace of hiking has become one of his joys. It is our time to share together. His love of hiking led me to photography. Music (my profession) is something I have to carve out time for away from my children .. It is impossible for me to write and practice while caring for Andrew .. one of the true challenges of my life. Photography has become a passion of mine that I can partake in while being with and caring for my children. Without Andrew I doubt I would have ever found it. A smaller way he has transformed me.

rychousmama, Werewolf, LightTech, Silke, hellas, glint, fserajian, ls_photography has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Werewolf: Hi Alainjmcl 2 08-28 22:22
To hellas: thank you so much for the thought.jmcl 1 08-28 18:53
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Critiques [Translate]

I like the darkness and light aspect of this photo, the colors are rich and full. The expression on your son's face is good and he seems to say 'just wait till I get you.' I really like how his pants and his face have almost the same color. You filled the frame so well with the vegetation. Very pretty photo.
Read your intro, autism tottally sucks but there's so much joy to be had when milestones are achieved.

I love your notes about Andrew :) And I can kind of understand your internal conflict with trying to reveal the hardships that Andrew endures while also trying not to patronize him, or to show that he is a complex individual like any other with joys and loves as well as fears.
I really like the way you played with shadow and light here, it creates a mood and dynamic quality in the shot and brings out Andrew's expression even more (he looks satisfied and perhaps a little smug, haha ;) ). You've done a great job with the composition placing Andrew off-center. Although portraiture shots are traditionally supposed to be framed vertically, I think this horizontal framing works because it is supposed to show the play of highlights and shadows surrounding Andrew. Great point of view from a little bit below him to show the way the broken lighting hits the background of trees and grass and various surfaces. I did a workshop on this, I hope you'll like it!

The link answer me a question. As it's the third photo i know it's an experience you do who look to bring some positive result and that's good.... But i was asking myself... Ok... for that, but i have the feeling as i see the backgrounds, seem to miss some good opportunity for the experience of Photo perhaps... True that TN is helpfull too for those nice experience we can do for a water fall close-up! You walk in a way to find Excellent surprises for TN...
The 3 Photos are excellent. But my activitys are only here... It take me already just enough time lol!

So the photo here... I like that play between light and shadow. And we know how shadows in that style if they are too strong, will just ruin the face!
Here the balance is to my taste! Give a good finish without alteration.
It's peacefull for the mood!

Hello John. Is good to see you in TL. I think your son had a good time during this hike. I like the angle you used to compose this image. The contrast of light and shadows is very good as are the colours. Good work with the image. You really seem to enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Thanks John.


  • Great 
  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2572 W: 237 N: 6132] (24044)
  • [2007-08-27 13:05]

Your notes are wonderful as always. But it is this image of Andrew happy and relaxed that stands out. It is good to see that he is even making a bit of eye contact here.
Great work
I also like the sunlight and shadow theme here: the spots of sun that stand out in this shadowed world: very evocative work

Hi John,
I see how much you love your son.
About the love now:

Though I speak the tongues of men and angels
if I don't have love
my words sound like noisy brass and clanging cymbals

And though I have the gift of prophecy
and though I understand all mysteries
so that I could remove mountains
if I don't have love, I am nothing

Love is patient, full of goodness
love doesn't envy, isn't boastful or proud
love tolerates all things
believes all things
aspires to all things
endures all things

Love never dies
while prophecies shall fail
languages shall cease
and knowledge shall vanish

Thus then remain these three
faith, hope and love
but the greatest of these is love.

Apostle Paul.

Emotional, well taken...

  • Great 
  • glint Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 593 W: 3 N: 545] (3785)
  • [2007-09-02 9:41]

hello John,
I am pleased to meet both you and Andrew. Thanks to Silke I have alighted on your site. I like this as the colour quality and something else magical reminds me of a colour plate in long ago children's books.
best regards

Hi John,

A very nice shot and wonderful notes. TFS



Hi John,

Lovely picture and great notes. Andrew ceraintly looks likes he is enjoying himself and you appear to have captured some direct eye contact in this peaceful atmosphere.

Well captured, tfs Tracey

You know this is very touching, and when I seen the picture, it just seemed like "Just a picture". But when I read the note, it was a lot more than just a picture. I just found out today that someone very close to me has developed cancer for the second time- we thought it was all gone. She has it in her lungs and liver, which is devistating to me, and it ruined my day. Thanks for sharing this image, and giving me a little more hope.


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