#1325. Night Vision

By Nancee Rostad | Art & Creativity

Nov 27

To set the scene: mid-October; hotel room; somewhere in Montana; 3:35 AM; lying in bed awake; can’t get back to sleep….what to do, what to do?


As my mind wandered, my eyes took in the dark room. It really wasn’t totally dark, since I always leave the room darkening shades open in hotels. Arrayed across the large window which overlooked a well-lit patio were loosely gathered semi-sheer curtains. After glancing out the window from the comfort of my bed, my eyes were suddenly attracted to the ceiling above me. The intense light coming from the moon & outdoor illumination was beaming through the window and casting fascinating patterns on the ceiling. It looked as if the curtains had been projected directly onto the ceiling in some magical way. Every fold and gather clearly visible.


Within minutes I had grabbed my trusty iPhone and started framing shots of the ceiling area. It was dark, but not so dark that the camera couldn’t focus or would need the flash. Of course, according to the message on the camera screen, I would need to hold the phone steady for 5 seconds in order to make an exposure. So, still lying in bed, I took photo after photo, frequently changing the direction and angle of the phone. This pursuit entertained me for about 30 minutes, and allowed me to settle down and drift off to sleep once again.


The resulting images are rather mysterious and ethereal abstracts in some respects, somehow not appearing to be photos at all. Some have considerable noise, which I think adds a wonderful texture, and some have colors that I couldn’t see at the time. The only adjustments made in post were reorienting some images by turning; adding a bit of contrast; and in one case, cropping a bit. More or less, they are straight-out-of-camera.


iPhone 13 Pro, handheld 5 second exposures, serendipity.


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  • pascaljappy says:

    Dear Nancee, thank you for this inspiring post. Two ideas come to mind when I read it.

    First, to me, the patterns you are photographing evoke an aurora. Fleeting, ever changing, with colours you discover in the photographs but could not see with the naked eye, and linked to an elusive physical phenomenon, but eloquent in very different ways to anyone awake at night (to badly paraphrase Saul Bellow).

    Secondly, the fact that this exercise brought sleep back is so interesting. Flow is a documented marvel, and yet, so many photographers (what, only, 99.9% of them?) deliberately turn their back to it? go figure.

    Thank you for this “illuminating” night vision, Nancee 😉

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you, Pascal for both the opportunity to share my images and for your always thoughtful comments. DearSusan has been such an important part of my creative life, better than any other sharing method that I’ve ever tried! Merci!
      The experience was very much like viewing an aurora, as you mentioned. I later figured out that the red color that appears in some of the images was from a small red light near the air conditioner unit – who knew that it would streak across the image. I love those lucky, serendipitous events.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aah, Nancee,
    Thank you for waking up at that right time!
    I suppose it was your inner Muse that woke you…
    And thank you for sharing!

    I expect your sleep afterwards was special!
    – – * – –

    I guess Pascal is right about that 99 %:

    The returning wanderer
    of unknown lands
    wide awake
    with eyes of wonder

    has hard work before him
    singing his stories
    in the wind
    that carries his people about.

    But their children,
    holding their parents hands,
    stay to listen
    wide awake,
    while their parent’s eyes
    widen with wonder.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Having embraced long ago the buddhist philosophy, “go with the flow” is something I hold dear in my heart… I deeply like the mindset you share with us here, Nancee… dreamy, as always with you 🙂
    Beautiful “mind wandering”! And such a beautiful way to find sleep again…

  • Dear Nancee, For me what your photographs illuminate is seeing a concept and acting on the possibility of conveying what that might be. Claude Fiddler

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Claude. And for using the word “illuminate” in your comment – I should have used it in my post!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Always a pleasure to see more of Nancee’s work, Pascal – always original – always imaginative – always creative. Can’t say I could ever compete with that, at half past three in the morning.

  • PaulB says:


    Another wonderful set of images. Your muse has taken us from photography into pointillism.


  • John Wilson says:

    Nancee – Wonderful set of images from something so simple – shadows on a ceiling. There are amazing secrets hidden in the commonplace and uncommon beauty in the mundane. To keep up, we’ll all have rent motel rooms with appropriate lighting and wait for sleepless nights.

    Well Done Milady

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you for your very insightful comments, John. It means a lot to me. I totally agree that sometimes the commonplace and mundane can produce interesting images – of course, it did help, in this case, that I tend to wake up routinely around 3:00 AM!

      • John Wilson says:

        I’m just GOING to bed at 3am.

        • Nancee Rostad says:

          Ah, so you’re a night owl. I’m a morning lark, so 3:00 AM seems like the middle of the night, because it is!

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            in the summer here, that’s when the sun rises.
            Now, we have 16 hours of night.
            And in northern Sweden…

            ( Friends of mine in Haparanda, ~80km south of the polar circle, told me that people almost dance in the streets in spring when real daylight is coming back!)

  • philberphoto says:

    Ah, Nancee! You should -or shall- be henceforth be knoown as Nancee QoS! Queen of Serendipity! So inspiring…

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Oh, Philippe, you do flatter me so! I didn’t invent serendipity, I just know how to use it when I see it! I’ll gladly accept my new nickname in the hope that others will join the Court of Serendipity!

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