At Guernica, Pamela Petro explores dusk during a writing retreat in New Hampshire and gets a beautiful and unexpected surprise after taking photographs of the peak fall colors in dwindling daylight.

Regardless, when I was tromping around MacDowell’s woods, trying to fix the iconic fall leaves in my viewfinder, I was irritated. I didn’t have a tripod with me, or any serious camera equipment that would have helped in the low light. All I had was my frustration.

On the third day of bad pictures I got angry. As I released the shutter, I jerked the camera up and down, like I could teach it a lesson. I probably looked like some kind of strange, large bird, pecking in the dusk on the edge of the forest.

Actually, it was fun. I did it over and over again.

When I saw the results that evening, I was astonished. The images looked more like abstract pastels than photographs. Like I’d wrought some kind of accidental magic with light and motion. I hadn’t taken pictures of what I’d seen, but of the moment my imagination moved in the semi-dark, groping towards the half-obscured woods around me. A moment of fusion rather than focus. A moment “so imperceptible,” as Scottish poet Annie Boutelle writes in her poem “Liminal,” that “one perceives.”

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