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“The best way out is always through.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sunset Photos: Wait for the Afterglow

A lot of times when I'm shooting sunsets at this particular beach, I'll see people hop out of their cars snap a few frames as the sun hits the horizon and then leave. Those are probably nice shots, but the real show often begins about five or ten minutes after the sun has hit the horizon and it's called the afterglow. It's during this brief afterglow that color flares up into the sky the clouds really catch fire.

The reason that the afterglow is so intense is just that the angle of the sun is causing direct light rays to bounce around in the cloud cover and scatter on the layers of dust, moisture and pollution. Believe it or not, the more pollution there is, the better the sunsets. After a forest fire or a volcano eruption the sunsets are often spectacular for weeks and weeks as the dust lingers in the atmosphere. Even more amazing, these clouds of volcanic dust travel around the globe in jet streams and, in fact, when Krakatoa exploded in August of 1883 the sunsets were so intense as far away as New Haven, Connecticut (nearly half the circumference of the Earth away) that people thought the sky was on fire. There are reports of the fire companies responding to fires in the sky!

Next time you're photographing a sunset, especially if there are interesting clouds, hang out and wait for the real show to begin. And incidentally, not only did I not saturate the colors in this shot (same clouds and sunset as the last two postings), but I actually had to tone them down because the yellows, pinks and reds were bleeding together too much. The only area that I saturated a tiny bit is in the reflection in the smooth water at the bottom of the frame to the left of center--I just wanted that spot of color to brighten the foreground a bit.

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