I am constantly looking at the sky to see if conditions are ripe for a good sunset. Clouds are an essential requisite, and the other day there were plenty of them but not much in the way of sunshine peeking through. Throughout the late afternoon, I kept an eye on the sky and finally decided to head out toward Jordan Lake with my son in case anything happened as the sun hit the horizon. We got there about twenty minutes before sunset and we had our cameras out and ready with wide angle zooms to capture as much of the sky as possible, because if anything happened, the sky would be the star and we wanted to capture as much of it as we could. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds for just a few minutes so there was some nice sidelight on a few individual trees along the edge of the lake, but it was too early for any kind of color in the clouds. And it seemed like the sun would go behind a band of clouds as it dropped to the horizon and we would be out of luck for any color; it looked like the sunset would end up being a bust.
As the time for sunset approached, I noticed some color in the clouds far off to the northeast and tried to get a tree in the foreground with some reflections on the water. The water wasn’t completely calm, but a longer exposure managed to smoothe out the ripples somewhat. As I turned around, I was amazed to see that a few clouds looking toward the west were beginning to take on the glow of sunset and marked the start of a spectacular show. As the sky began to light up, I literally ran from tree to tree to get different images looking southwest, west and northwest while the sky changed with every setup. I had already placed a two-stop, hard edge split neutral density filter in front of the lens to even out the light values between the sky and the reflections in the water, but one image also necessitated another soft edge split held sideways with the darker part on the right side of the frame to eliminate the bright spot where the sun had set.
Some clouds were lit pink while others remained dark and ominous. At one point, a band of dark clouds reflected in the water to form a bit of an arrow. Then there were whole swaths of pink that didn’t even seem to be clouds at all, almost like a swipe of a paintbrush held by a Divine hand. Color reached every corner of the sky in every direction of the compass. It was one of the best sunsets or sunrises I’ve seen. Because the sky was changing so rapidly, it seemed this light show lasted for quite some time. After looking at the times the exposures were taken, it lasted ten minutes, an eternity for such magical light.
Ansel Adams once said:
“Sometimes I get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
…and that’s just the way we felt. Brian and I left the lake totally exhilarated after having witnessed such a wonderous event, with high fives and grins from ear to ear!!!!