Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I’m a sunset man. Show me a fiery painted sky and I’ll grab my camera. If the camera isn’t handy, I’ll gape open-mouthed from late-twilight until pitch darkness, “oohing” and “ahhing” all the time. I like dawns too, of course. Some of the best sky colors I’ve ever witnessed occurred in conjunction with the sun finding its way above the eastern horizon. But as a general rule, morning skies tend more toward the pastels, more toward the pinks and pale blues rather than the orange and turquoise and purple of sunset. Dawns are subtle, delicate and genteel, while sunsets take no prisoners, pulling out all the stops as they knock you off your feet. Here along the river, sunsets are particularly enjoyable because of the water. The river along this stretch runs generally north-to-south, though a compass would reveal it’s more like north-northwest-to-east-southeast. Still, if I tell you I live on the east, or lefthand bank of the river as you head downstream, you understand the water is nevertheless between my cottage and the setting sun. Moreover, the river pours over a big riffle just as it reaches the point where the cottage sits, and then opens into a rather wider pool below, with a nice eddy along the far bank. This give me a fine view of both broken and more-or-less quiet water. Why is this water business so important? Because I long ago realized that often the best part of the sunset to be seen is not in the western sky itself—but reflected in or on various landscape features or manmade objects, temporarily transforming them by adding color in extraordinary ways. Often when viewing a sunset, we miss some real treats because we fail to look around…which often means looking behind, away from the sunset, to see what things located to the rearward might be catching its glowing light. Last evening was no exception. The actual sunset—the moments before and after the sun’s disappearance—wasn’t spectacular. And while the western sky did color up a fair amount subsequent to this passage—changing, intensifying over the next twenty minutes before fading away—it still wasn’t one of those jaw-dropping spectaculars. At least not as viewed from where I live, though a friend who lives a few miles northward later sent me an email indicating the show had been dazzling as seen from her viewpoint. This is often the case—cloud cover and similar atmospheric conditions can make all the difference in whether a sunset is sensational or ho-hum; even a mile one way or the other can prove the deciding factor. What was breathtaking here was the sunset as viewed in the river’s riffle. The smoother portions of flowing water became liquid fire, almost like a cascade of hot volcanic lava. The whitewater, on the other hand, seemed to pick up the blues of the sky, and maybe a hint too of red. I don’t know whether you’ll be able to see this latter business, as online color corrections differ greatly from one monitor to the next. But trust me, the actual color mix is there. The image is not manipulated except that I’ve lopped a bit off the right side to square the shot a bit. Also, please double-click to enlarge if you really want to see what a sunset, viewed indirectly via a river, can create. One of the reasons why I so enjoy photography is the way it almost forces me to look at things—to observe, to see what’s really before me in all its amazing variables and nuances, graduations and degrees, overtones, hints, and distinctions. When I focus my camera I focus my eyes and vision…and perhaps my thinking. This image from last evening is of of my favorites. Sunsets and sunrises are common. Barring cloud cover, we get on of each per day. But often, the best of the show created by this regular sky painting is not to be found in the sky, but elsewhere—an infusion of color that’s simply divine.