Sunset

Great Basin National Park Sunset

Great Basin National Park Sunset

The late afternoon light filters through clouds hanging over Great Basin National Park at sunset

I’ve probably mentioned my friend Tom over the last few years. The way I describe our relationship is that he is a hiker who enjoys photography and I’m a photographer that reluctantly agrees to hike when necessary to get a great shot. Tom and I have been friends since I was in college at Georgia State and he was matriculating at Georgia Tech.

One of Tom’s bucket list items is to visit every national park in the United States. So, in the last few years we have fallen into a rhythm of taking trips that incorporate a national park that he (and in most cases, I) have not visited before. That was the case this past fall when we planned a trip to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona to visit Great Basin National Park followed by various other sites in those states. To be honest, I had no real desire to visit Great Basin, but after some research it certainly seemed worth a look.

I don’t know if GBNP is the least visited national park or not, but it is certainly on the low end of the list. I believe that it averages 100,000 visitors per year. It’s certainly in an out of the way location. GBNP is located almost exactly halfway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Even more telling the road that runs to the east and north of the park is literally labeled The Loneliest Road in America on Google Maps. It’s the kind of place that you can go quite a while without seeing another person.

On our first night in the park, we set up hoping for an epic sunset looking west toward the horizon. Unfortunately, the spot we picked didn’t have a great view to the horizon. And, conditions weren’t shaping up for a blazing show in the west at sunset. However, as I looked back east, some low lying clouds caught the right amount of light and were briefly a fairly intense shade of pink. I captured this image looking out toward Utah over the Great Basin. It may be a desolate part of the world, but it is certainly beautiful in its own was as well. Enjoy.

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Atlanta from Freedom Parkway

Atlanta from Jackson Street, December 2016

Downtown Atlanta skyline as viewed from the Jackson Street overpass in December 2016

The app that I use to forecast sunrise and sunset conditions showed that there was a high chance of a brilliant sunset over Atlanta last night. So, Taylor and I headed down to the Jackson Street bridge over Freedom Parkway to see what might happen. I’ve shot from this location many, many times, but I’ve never come away with the shot I want. Unfortunately, the same was true last night. Conditions were promising, but no blazing sunset over my hometown materialized. Sigh. Conditions were great for the classic twilight view of Atlanta, however. Here’s that shot and here’s to that fiery sunset over the city that I’ve been chasing for a while now.

Setting Sun as Viewed from Moonstone Beach

Setting Sun as Viewed from Moonstone Beach

The setting sun descends into the Pacific over the rocks of Moonstone Beach

Although the sunset at Moonstone Beach was not as vibrant as I had hoped, it still turned out to be quite beautiful. The absence of clouds that could turn multi-hued pastel shades meant that all the rays of the setting sun could flood the beautiful California coastline. It’s magic hours like this that allow me to see at least one of the reasons California is called the Golden State. It certainly earned its nickname on this fine summer evening.

I had worked my way down the beach looking for vantage points and foregrounds that could showcase the setting sun and the rugged coastline. I finally settled on a rocky outcrop just off a local park where I could use the ocean as my foreground. I found this group of rocks that were absorbing the incoming tide where I could put the setting sun in the center of my frame.

I don’t normally like to put the most prominent feature of my images in the dead center of my composition. In this case, though, I wanted to feature many different elements including the ocean, the rocks, the graduated color of the sky and the distant hills descending into the Pacific. To do so, this was the composition that was the most pleasing to my eye. I used a relatively long shutter speed of 1/6 of a second to add some blur to the waves and introduce some sense of the action unfolding in front of me.

All in all, I love the image. I think it conveys a sense of the beautiful evening that I experienced. I hope the image conveys some of that sense to you as well. Enjoy.

Moonstone Beach at Sunset

Moonstone Beach at Sunset

Seagulls at rest and native vegetation on Moonstone Beach near sunset

I spent an evening on Moonstone Beach hoping for epic sunset conditions. I had hoped for some clouds in the sky that would turn to brilliant red, pink, and orange against the setting sun. Instead I got a cloudless sky. The benefit was that as the sun dropped toward the horizon everything turned golden. There were some pretty amazing shooting conditions for an hour or so.

I made several compositions, but this is one of my favorites. I’ve blown out the sun but it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize what it would have looked like. I managed to capture the backlit vegetation on the cliffs of Moonstone Beach and a flock of resting seagulls on the beach below. This image captures the feel of this part of the central California coast as well as anything else I shot on the trip. Enjoy.

Boardwalk, Wildflowers, and Ocean

Boardwalk, Wildflowers, and Ocean

A boardwalk and wildflowers on the Pacific coast at sunset

The central California coast is consistently beautiful. Around just about every turn in the road there is a new pretty sight to view. This shot was taken on a section of the coast with an extensive boardwalk that makes it easy to walk and take in the views. Add in a bit of wildflower creeping onto the boardwalk and some golden late afternoon light and, voilà, you have a magical image. Enjoy.

Coast Live Oak and Field at Sunset

Coast Live Oak and Field at Sunset

A Coast Live Oak in a recently cultivated field illuminated by the golden rays of the setting sun

Earlier this summer I had a business opportunity that Pamela and I decided to extend into a vacation and a chance to visit family. My business was in Irvine, CA for a couple of days. Since we were experiencing a bit of early empty nest syndrome with all three of our kids working or volunteering for the summer, we decided to drive on up the coast to visit family and to vacation for a few days.

I have two uncles who decided to move to California after World War Two. One of them passed away several years ago, but the other still lives in San Luis Obispo County. Two of his children who are closer to my age also live there. We’ve been able to visit them a few times over the last ten years or so. It’s always great fun to catch up with all of them. It’s a bonus that the central California coast is an absolutely spectacular beautiful spot in the world.

My cousins live on two adjoining properties located among farms and wineries. The views from all around their home are spectacular. One evening while we were visiting, the light on the surrounding properties turned spectacular. Obviously my attention must have drifted from the conversation to the photography potential outside and my cousin took pity on me. She asked if I wanted to be driven further up the road they live on to a higher elevation where I might catch the sunset. (Have I mentioned how cool my California family is?) I quickly accepted and this shot resulted.

The Coast Live Oak is found throughout much of central and northern California. It is often seen standing alone in a field much as it is depicted here. In the right light the trees are simply beautiful. I think this was the right light. Hopefully I’ve captured the beauty that I saw on the warm, summer evening in the Golden State. Enjoy.

Cowee Mountains Overlook Panorama

Cowee Mountains Overlook Panorama

A panoramic view of the Cowee Mountains from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was spending a few minutes puttering around in my office this morning and I came across this image. I had just posted an entry that contained another image captured during this sunset, but I’m still intrigued by this shot.

While I was waiting for the clouds to turn brilliant shades of pink, orange, and red after sunset, my friend Tom and I were standing on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Cowee Mountains Overlook in western North Carolina just waiting for things to develop. As is often the case with me the shot that I wound up with turned out to be totally different from the shot I had anticipated. Sunset that night, while not a bust, certainly was not sensational. This, however, turned out to be an epic shot. Paraphrasing John Lennon among many others, sometimes life is what happens in the meantime.

For those of you interested in the technical details, I shot this with a Nikon D800 at ISO 400 with an aperture of f/5.0 at a speed of 1/500 second using my Nikon 24-70 2.8 at 50mm. I shot on a tripod with portrait orientation taking eight shots stitched together with the panorama feature in Adobe Photoshop CC with final adjustments made in Lightroom CC.

I wish it was a sunrise shot because it would make for great commentary on how I view the new year. So, let’s just go with the sunrise/New Year analogy even though this is a sunset shot..

Here’s hoping that 2016 is your best year yet. I certainly hope it will be for me and my family. In any case, may your relationship with your family, your friends, and God who created you grow in depth and vitality in the new year. Enjoy.

New York City Skyline

Sunset over New York City

A brilliant sunset sky over the skyline of New York City and the Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Skyline at Dusk

The lower Manhattan skyline as viewed from Brooklyn Bridge Park at dusk

New York City Skyline

The skyline of lower Manhattan as viewed from Brooklyn Bridge Park

I’ve had some shots on my photo bucket list for quite a while. Those include images from Patagonia, Iceland, and New Zealand among many others. It’s pretty easy for me to justify a lack of images from those locations in my portfolio. I haven’t traveled to those locations… yet.

But, the skyline of New York? That’s hard to explain. It’s not that difficult to get there. The shot itself isn’t technically difficult. I just didn’t have it. So, when Taylor and I began to plan a trip to Boston and New York, I immediately began to think about locations in New York that I would like to photograph. The view from the Empire State building or from the top of Rockefeller Center was one obvious location I wanted. The other that came quickly to mind was a view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn or New Jersey.

As I began to flesh out the details of our trip it became apparent that the time of day that I could shoot most readily would be sunset. That meant that I would want to put the setting sun behind the city. So, I would be shooting from Brooklyn. As I researched online the spot that came up over and over again was Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since I haven’t spent a lot of time in New York City I had not visited that location before. Frankly, I didn’t know if the area would be safe, well-lit, or even easily accessible. When I talked to my brother-in-law who lives in the city he assured me that the area was perfectly safe and that I would not be alone there.

So, I hopped on the subway and made my way to Brooklyn. After a short walk to the park I was surrounded by other photographers, sightseeing tourists, and plenty of locals who were out enjoying a beautiful late spring evening. Now all I had to get was great lighting conditions for my shots. As it turned out I had perfect conditions and I was extremely grateful for them. To be in the right place at the right time doesn’t always work out for your friendly neighborhood photographer. But, God smiled on me that night.

I shot from several different locations, but I ended up at a seating area that has been created to view the perfect New York City sunset. The seating area is located just south of the Manhattan Bridge. As you can see, there is just enough of an angle so that the Brooklyn Bridge can serve as the foreground for the skyline of lower Manhattan. I sat in that location for a very happy hour and a half just watching and capturing the changing light conditions.

The shot I had in mind when I set out that night is the glowing sunset over the city. It’s a toss-up though whether my favorite is the dusk shot or the later shot with only a bit of glow still lingering in the sky. I love them all. I hope that you enjoy them all as well. And, as always, thanks for stopping by. Enjoy.

The View from the Rock

The View from the Rock - horizontal

The Empire State building and lower Manhattan at sunset as viewed from Rockefeller Center

One of the shots that I hoped I would be able to get was the Manhattan skyline from the top of Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, on the day we had tickets to go up some rain was forecast for New York City. After discussing it for a while, we decided to go anyway hoping that the weather would hold off until after sunset.

So, we queued up with all the other tourists and waited our turn to ride the elevator up to the observation deck of Rockefeller Center. I could tell from the gathering clouds that our chances were pretty slim for staying dry. Still, the experience was fun and we looked forward to our turn.

Our time finally arrived and we made our way through the queue and into the elevator. When we arrived at the top of Rockefeller Center we took a few minutes to wander around a bit, taking in the view and looking for the best vantage point for the upcoming sunset.

My only mistake was taking the rules posted on the Rockefeller Center website a bit too seriously. There were strict prohibitions of any type of tripod or monopod being allowed. Of course, I immediately saw at least two tripods in use and no one really seemed to care. A bit later on I regretted not having even a small travel tripod. I was able to photograph until the sun actually set, but after that there simply wasn’t enough light for me to hand hold my camera and take a shot without vibration.

The good news was that the incoming storm also created some pretty sweet shooting conditions. I did have to stand through a brief rain shower covering my camera with my rain jacket. But, it turned out to be worth it. There was a brief ten minute or so window where the setting sun dropped below the clouds creating the showers and cast some beautiful golden light on the Manhattan skyline.

The shot posted here was taken in just those conditions. Some of the city lights were coming on at dusk. Some sunlight was creating a wonderful glow on the Brooklyn Bridge and some of the buildings of lower Manhattan. The Freedom Tower stood virtually glowing in the late afternoon light. All in all, it was a pretty amazing experience even though we did get a bit wet. Enjoy.

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline

The beautiful city of Toronto on a late summer’s evening

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Toronto for the first time. Well, my actual destination was Barrie which is almost an hour north of Toronto. But, we went into Toronto for dinner one night and my host graciously drove me out to a point where I could get this vantage point of the city.

As is usually the case with skyline shots, this image was taken a few minutes after sunset. There was still some color from the sun which had dropped below the horizon. There were a few breaks in the clouds as well which allowed the deep blue sky above to show through the cloud cover. By waiting fifteen or twenty minutes after sunset, the building lights of the city were all on and contrasted beautifully with the glow in the sky above. By using a thirty second exposure the waves in Lake Ontario only appear as a creamy texture in the foreground. Surprisingly, there is even a bit of a reflection from some of the brightest lights in the city.

I only was able to spend a few hours in the city, but based on what I saw, I definitely would like to return for a longer visit. If you find yourself in the area you definitely should visit the city. And if you are heading north you should check out Connexus Community Church and their team including teaching pastor Carey Nieuwhof. Thanks for your hospitality, Carey and Connexus team!