Previous: The Monterey Bay Aquarium Has a Secret
Next: Uncomfortable Nuance: Natural Gas Edition



View count:225,621
Last sync:2024-05-08 01:00


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "3 Minutes and 58 Seconds of Darkness." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 28 May 2019,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2019)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2019, May 28). 3 Minutes and 58 Seconds of Darkness [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2019)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "3 Minutes and 58 Seconds of Darkness.", May 28, 2019, YouTube, 03:59,
In which John's camera looks at the night sky above Indianapolis.

The old videos are from January of 2007:
and my video about leaving New York City in July of 2007:

The image of the night sky is from UroŇ° Novina in Slovenia:

Subscribe to our newsletter!
And join the community at
Help transcribe videos -
John's twitter -
Hank's twitter -
Hank's tumblr -
Listen to The Anthropocene Reviewed at
Listen to Dear Hank and John at
Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

(0:01) You're looking at the sky above Indianapolis last night, well sort of. I've been thinking a lot about what cameras see, and what they don't. To my eyes, the sky last night looked bright. Light pollution bounced off the clouds as they blew slowly south-west. The camera can't see the crisp edges of the clouds or the glimpses of Venus behind them. On the other hand, set a camera still and let it take in light for a long time and it will see much more than the eye can.

(0:29) Before we started making YouTube videos in 2007, I'd never actually owned a video camera. In fact, I almost never took pictures of any kind; I only have about a dozen photos of myself from between the ages of 18 and 27.

(0:43) When I got that first video camera, it learned that, while 2007 camcorders were good at capturing static spaces built by humans: apartment walls, bookshelves, car interiors; they became utterly overwhelmed by the actual world. Even a few leaves fluttering in the wind, turned my 2007 camcorder into an impressionist painting.

(1:04) When you make video, you try to keep the light steady and the background noise steady and the camera steady. Outside nothing is steady. Cameras are better now of course, and even though we repeat to ourselves, mantra like, that the images we see online are only a tiny slither of a person's experience, it's harder to be aware of the distance between what you see and what the camera sees.

(1:28) I remember photographing myself and Sarah in the vast and empty salt flats of Utah, being careful to angle the camera so it wouldn't capture the many other people photographing themselves in the vast and empty salt flats of Utah.

(1:42) But even though I know that people only film the moments they want me to see, even though I recognise that pictures don't capture reality so much as crop it, I can't help but feel like images are really real. Images are proof; these images prove it was cloudy last night in Indianapolis. But images are also necessarily distortions; this isn't the sky I saw last night, not really, but it's also the only record I have of that sky.

(2:10) Way, way before Instagram or Snapchat, Susan Sontag described in her essay, On Photography, "... the camera's twin capacities, to subjectivize reality and to objectify it..." How do we hold those twin capacities in our mind together, how do we look at an image and see that it is both real and distorted, how do we remain aware that weather we are talking about the night sky or Instagram feeds or video blogs, no matter how much the camera captures, it will always fail to capture almost everything. I can know this intellectually, but as a practical matter, I am overwhelmed by the power of images, my mind can't help but believe what the camera sees.

(2:53) Sontag also wrote that, quote, "needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted." I sometimes feel like something isn't really real unless I've documented it, as if my memories and even my life itself will just slip past like the clouds through last night's sky. More than anything I take pictures as a way of trying to fix myself in time, a way of saying, "I was here, I was here, I was."

(3:28) But the pictures wont last either of course, and the risk of seeing everything through a camera is that you miss everything the camera doesn't see. I can't show you last night's sky, not really, but you can see tonight's, it won't photograph well and it won't last and you wont remember it forever, but it will be beautiful and important none the less.

(3:55) Hank, I'll see you on Friday.