Entropy – 260/365

The shift from order, to dissorder. Thats the shortest explanation I can give for entropy, if you haven’t come acoss the word before. Its an intersting topic, if your into thermodynamics, or if your just interested in the world around you, and everything in it.

Weird, you might think, that I mention it here? Well, not really. You see as I left work today, at about 7pm, the sun was close to setting, sat just above the horizon. As a result, the colour in the sky was really vibrant and looked amazing. I didn’t photograph it though, I was late and I needed to get home.

I decided not to chase the light tonight, and instead I’d go out into the back garden and find a small scale scene, grab a couple of lights and have a play with manipulating the shadows around it.

Izzy had spotted a really nice cluster of mushrooms at the base of a tree stump on the weekend. I thought I could experiment with my lights, and my 50mm lens to create some interesting shadows on a very small and intimate scene, involving the mushrooms.

So, after I’d eaten my dinner, and it was by now pitch black outside, I went out to see what images I could create. What I found though, was entropy in action.


You see entropy is the transformation of matter and energy into something else, normally something less organised. A good example is a sand dune, that has a very clear shape and structure, held together by sand (matter) and gravity (energy). However as the winds blow, they shift the sands, and the sand dune becomes something else. It might become another sand dune, but more probable is that it becomes a flatter pile of sand.

Amazingly, probability also says there is a chance for it to become an amazing sand castle, with perfectly formed turrets, a moat and a draw bridge. Unliekly as that may seem, there is a chance!

What is much more likely though, is that some energy is lost or used, and something less “organised” is created; like a pile of sand thats not quite a dune. You might call it decay, and really that’s what it is. The universe is constantly moving towards a flat line of boring equilibrium.

So, how does this relate to my photography today? Well, if your still with me, entropy took place incolving the mushrooms, and even the tree stump. The mushrooms grew around the base of the tree stump, using energy, and reorganising the wood into a less ordered structure; some wood chips and a big hole in the tree stump, have appeared. Also, slugs have eaten almost all of the mushrooms, using energy to do so, and rather unceromoniously turned my potential photograph into, slug poo. Someithing I think you’ll agree is less ordered, and less structured than a cluster of mushrooms. Even I used energy to get my camera, take it outside and set it up for the shots. That took energy, generated from ham and cheese sandwiches I ate at lunch time. If we take it to it’s extreme, someone used energy to create my camera, which is negative entropy, as something more structured was created, but energy was still “spent”. For now, let’s stick to the mushrooms and slugs…..

Mushrooms + Tree Stump + Slugs = Slug Poo

Structure and energy being transformed into something else.

Learnings – my little experiment didn’t quite work out tonight, the only reason I think is becasue I needed a less busy subject matter, maybe a single flower or something like that would have worked better. I did get some interesting results by moving the light from left to right as the exposure took place, but really I was more drawn in by watching entropy happen right before my eyes. You see, entropy is all around us, but normally we dont even see it, or notice it.

The universe and everything in it, including us, is gradually going through entropy over and over again, slowly but surely moving towards a greater state of dissorder. So whats the learning, whats the lesson? What has this got to do with photography? Simply to be quick, and do things now not later. If you wait too long, the only thing you’ll have left is slug poo, trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

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