Friday, November 21, 2008

Ripples and similes

click photo to enlarge
"The foolish are like ripples on water, for whatever they do is quickly effaced; but the righteous are like carvings upon stone, for their smallest act is durable."
Horace (65BC - 8BC), Roman poet

Similes involving ripples in water are amongst the most overworked of their kind. The classic version involves an action from which ripples spread, that affects other things or people. How many times, in recent months, have I read of the ripples that have spread throughout the world banking system from over-enthusiastic sub-prime lending? Too many!

And yet, when the idea of ripples spreading is used a little more creatively, as in the example from Horace, quoted above, it can be illuminating, and serve its purpose of increasing our understanding and deepening our enjoyment of the prose. Scientists have physical laws and mathematical formulae that describe the effect of the spread of ripples in water, and what happens when they meet a fixed or moving object, or other ripples. Yet, as I stood under a bridge and watched drips of water from above falling into the river, creating this complex intersection of concentric ripples, it was very difficult to see how each changed the others. Was the ripple simile built on sand (to murder a metaphor)? But perhaps the effect was so marginal as not to be visible. And that made me wonder how the simile gained such a firm foothold. However, I didn't wonder too long because it made my head hurt! Instead I enjoyed the play of light on water and the patterns that appeared and slowly disappeared as the energy from each originating drip was dissipated.

My photograph has had the contrast and colour adjusted slightly to emphasise the patterns.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On