Sunday, January 16, 2011

Writing Sundogs

Sundogs are a phenomenon caused by ice crystals hanging in the air like prisms. When the angle of the sun is just right you can see ice floating like dust motes in light.

The dogs appear as rainbows perpendicular to the sun and come in pairs; one on each side. They usually appear when the temperature drops below - 30˚C and occasionally, when it's even colder, one can see double sundogs; 2 dogs on each side. I have only seen double dogs once.

It's not alway easy to capture  the dogs. Although they appear vibrant and alive to the eye, almost dancing. They're often washed out on film, becoming faded ghosts of reality in opaque colours blended into the background.

I managed to capture the following sundog images on January 13th at -34˚C.

I have always been awed by the beauty of sundogs and look forward to cold days when they come out to play. Likewise, I have always wondered if there were any first nations stories about sundogs and if they fulfill a role in their traditional culture.

I ponder how I might describe them in a story in order to get the imagery and detail right; to guide the reader to the perfect place in which they might see them clearly. Even these photos are but a ghost of the vibrant sight. How much harder would it be to portray them on paper?

The top snap was taken by Takhini Arena, Whitehorse YT around 2 p.m. in the afternoon. Notice how low the sun is on the horizon. You can see the dogs to the far right and left sides of the picture. In the bottom pic you can just see the sundog on the left side; a faint rainbow running vertically behind the exhaust of the Canada Games Centre.

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