Light surrounds us constantly. It nurtures every living thing, reveals the beauty of the universe, connects us across thousands of miles of underwater cable and powers thousands of electrical grids around the world.

For visual artists, light serves as both a brushstroke and a canvas, and influences everything they make. The ever-changing nature of this ubiquitous resource, however, can also upend an artist’s best laid plans with minuscule shifts in the angle of the sun, or slight changes of humidity — completely altering the mood and meaning of any moment.

So what happens when the artist tries to wield light itself in service to a deeper goal?

Photographer Fernanda Rocha spoke to us about the innovative way she went about seizing the untouchable for her series, Xanadu.

“I wanted to create the effect you see in [this series] without any digital manipulation,” she said. “I tried different tools and ideas that didn’t always work.”

Rocha decided early on that the painstaking process of making the image would be part of the artwork itself.

“It was a bit challenging to capture the effect you see in the photograph without anyone’s help,” she said. “The spectrums lasted only momentarily, as light intensity is temporary. It took me months to perfect the technique.”

The end result — ephemeral, dynamic and surreal portraits of moments spun out of pure light — speak for themselves.

“Ultimately, I wanted the process to reflect the concept I had for this series — of a sentimental yearning for a time of simplicity, before technology became such a big part of our lives.”

Image: "Xanadu 005" by Fernanda Rocha; Miami, Florida, 2013.