May 16th 2018 marked the first International Day of Light initiated by UNESCO. As lighting designers we grab the chance to explore the way we perceive the world around us, so we visited Camera Obscura, World of Illusions near Edinburgh Castle. For most of us, it was the first time we visited the attraction, but we all had a very interesting and fun day.
May 16th was a sunny and warm day in Scotland, something that doesn’t happen so often, as if even the weather dressed in its best, showing us the bright side of the day. As soon as we got our tickets, we climbed up to the last floor to experience the camera obscura (dark room). We spied the people around the castle and had an overview of Edinburgh’s surroundings, appreciating how light reflects our environment and enables us to perceive our world.
After our fun experience of scooping up people from the street and enjoying the outdoor view from inside our dark room, we started descending and immersed ourselves in the world of illusions. As most things to do with light are about our perception of the world and our visual experiences, experiencing different types of illusions had us both surprised and intrigued. Two-dimensional frames turned into three-dimensional holograms, mirrors invited us to exchange faces or noses, or even give ourselves a handshake. A particularly fun moment was when Annette’s head popped out of a table and scared our newest Senior Lighting Designer Caroline, as Annette’s body was invisible thanks to mirrors on the side of the table.
We cannot talk about light without considering that where there is light, there is shadow too. So we tried to leave our mark through shadows on a special wall. We had a blast trying different poses and the way they were recorded as shadows on the wall. And then we started playing with coloured shadows, exploring the relationship between colour and light.
However, light is not just the part of the spectrum that we are able to see, but there are aspects of light that we cannot perceive without technological aid. We had the opportunity to explore different parts of the spectrum of light, through X-rays and Infrared cameras. Funny to discover which part of your body is the hottest!
Camera Obscura not only challenged the way we see and perceive our world, but it really made us think that vision and perception is not only what the eye can see, but how the brain interprets it. A great example was the Vortex Tunnel, where lights were moving in a circular rhythm, and we had to cross the tunnel. Although the bridge was steady, the moment you enter the tunnel you get a vertigo feeling, making you want to hold on and move slowly along a path that you wouldn’t usually have issues crossing.
After we felt the earth steady again beneath our feet, we decided to move on and catch up with our work. Light is playing a great role in our lives, not only as the medium which allows to perceive our living environment, but it affects us in various ways, through different parts of the spectrum. As lighting designers, we should be more aware, not only for the aesthetics of our visual world, but for the benefits and dangers of light for our health and well-being.