1 March 2015

The Tipping Point

The warm rays of the sun were reverberating on my beautifully-tanned skin and piercing through my transparent-blue eyes. I parted the sea with my hands, elegantly stepping onto dry, white, soft sand. Beads of water sparkled as they dropped from the strands of my hair and trickled down my sculptured body. With barely a flirtatious wink at the pretty girls ogling me, I picked up my camera and started gracefully jogging on the beach, flexing my amazingly-shaped muscles. My run was precisely calculated so I would arrive at my sunset photo spot exactly on time.

ShkreeechShkreeechShkreeechShkreeech – that’s the sound of the VHS tape rewinding – because it’s not at all how it happened.

Imagine instead my right leg full of (thankfully healing) wounds from a scooter accident ten days earlier in the middle of the Cambodian countryside (a story in itself), my left side with three visible warzone-endured-like scars (what, did I hear someone say “sexy”?!), and it wasn’t seawater sparkling but stinky and sticky sweat. Oh, and since I haven’t been allowed to practice sports in the previous months, I was panting with my tongue sticking out (okay, I’m exaggerating on that one, the rest is however true, quite unfortunately). And the only people who could potentially observe this heroic scene were a couple meditating in lotus position on the beach… and with their eyes closed.

Anyway, I picked up pace, keeping an eye on the rapidly declining sun on my right. Five months had already passed since my double pneumothorax surgery, yet I couldn’t avoid thinking about it as I was running on the beach. To this day, I still have a hard time realising this happened to me – one wants to believe in one’s invincibility – although I since had that minor scooter accident.

On this warm January evening, the only lingering pain in my wrist didn’t prevent me from enjoying the pleasant one-kilometre jog, carefully avoiding to trample on my new little friends, the sand bubbler crabs. For I had earlier noticed a beautiful junk boat anchored near the beach, one of those traditional sailing boats which used to dot Halong Bay in Vietnam (they have since been replaced by nondescript white motor-propelled boats). I would picture in my mind a pretty sunset photo with the silhouette of the boat, drowned in a reddish atmosphere, not without reminding me of Louis Toffoli’s Istanbul painting. Actually looking for a link to that painting made me discover a whole series closely resembling what I eventually photographed.

Sunset on Otres beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Of course I wasn’t the only one wanting to capture the “perfect” sunset shot, although I’m perhaps a little more stressed – let’s say, meticulous – than the average photographer: I strive to frame a harmonious composition, not just capturing the sun itself as in too many dull shots. Sometimes the sun doesn’t even need to be in the frame to render magical instances (see the picture in a previous post titled Four elements). I was also very lucky: I didn’t think I had ever seen the circumference of an orange sun so distinctly drawn out in the sky, although examining my catalogue of photos more carefully made me realise I had already witnessed similar sights during my trips to India. Luck struck twice: I couldn’t remember having yet observed the ring of the sun touch the flat horizon of the sea, clouds or pollution obstructing the sun in most other places I had been to (for instance in Tanah Lot in Bali, Indonesia).

As the sun disappeared behind the planet’s horizon, amateur photographers headed back to their bungalows. Fatal mistake, the sunset light would still reveal some surprising scenes. To be continued...