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.

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.

Rainbows Over the Cliffs of Moher

Rainbows Over the Cliffs of Moher

As the sun settles below a passing storm toward the horizon, rainbows appear above the Cliffs of Moher

I can’t recall where I first remember seeing the Cliffs of Moher, but I immediately put photographing them on my bucket list. When I started planning our trip to Ireland I knew that I had to have at least one sunset to try to capture some of their beauty.

As it turned out, we would visit the Cliffs on two separate occasions while in the west of Ireland. And the first trip seemed even more promising than the second. As part of the tour that we were taking for the middle six days of our time in Ireland, we would load onto a boat in a nearby town and view the cliffs from the sea. Needless to say, I brought my gear along looking forward to some iconic shots. Unfortunately, the day that the boat trip occurred, the weather was rainy and the sea was turbulent. I’m not much of a seagoing guy, but I think even the locals looked at us as a bit crazy for boarding a boat in the weather we had that day. Here’s a shot of a passing boat headed on our same route or as a ferry to one of the outlying islands.

The Doolin Ferry

A ferry boat headed to the Cliffs of Moher on a stormy Irish afternoon

Notice the gray skies, the fact that very few people are onboard, and that everyone who is onboard is covered head to toe in rain gear. And when we ran into the wind the waves piled up in front of us and it was an extremely rough ride. We did end up with some pretty amazing views of the cliffs, but they were so shrouded in fog that it just didn’t make a great shot. Not to mention I was terrified that the sea spray would corrode my camera and lenses.

Fortunately for me, Pamela and I had scheduled our final two nights in Ireland to stay on the coast within easy driving distance of the Cliffs in the town of Lahinch. As we made our way up from the Dingle Peninsula towards Lahinch, the weather was rainy and windy. It was beautiful weather in which to see the lush Irish countryside but not so conducive to hiking and making photographs. We were just looking forward to getting to our hotel and having a warm, dry place to lay our head for the night. But, I still kept an eye on the weather just in case the sun might make a late afternoon appearance and spread some golden light on the Cliffs of Moher.

As it turned out, that is close to what happened. My long-suffering wife saw me looking wistfully out the window at dinner and quickly agreed to take a drive up the coast just in case the light might get good. Isolated storms were sweeping up the coast but moved on quickly and sometimes let brief glimpses of the sun and blue sky overhead appear. We made it to the parking lot of the Cliffs just as another small squall moved through the area. It wasn’t looking good. But, we put on our rain jackets and I strapped on my Think Tank Trifecta 10 bag and tripod and we began the walk up to the viewpoints.

Once we set up it became apparent that there was a small shot that the sun would make an appearance that night. We could see squalls moving across the landscape but they were spotty and sunlight was definitely hitting parts of the landscape in the distance. So, we began the wait for magic light.

In Ireland in midsummer the sunset doesn’t happen until nearly 10:00 at night. We were probably there by 8:30. Once I had picked the ‘right’ spot, I set up my gear, got my rain covers ready, and started looking for the right light. I had two bodies ready. I had my D700 with a 70-200 2.8 lens and a D800 on a tripod with my 24-70 2.8 on it. I was shooting wide with the D800 and a bit more localized with the D700.

Amazingly, as one of the storms rolled by overhead, the sun began to break through behind. I don’t know that I ever actually saw the sun, but it would occasionally light up the entire foreground, the cliffs, and the landscape beyond. And, as often happens in these conditions, rainbows began to form! At first Pamela and I both thought we could see a weak rainbow, but as the storm clouds moved by it became more and more vibrant. Then, a second smaller rainbow formed. I started shooting as quickly as possible making as many different compositions as possible. I bracketed exposures, shot with a neutral density filter, shot with a polarizer, and sometimes with a combination of all of those. I wanted to capture the moment as well as possible making sure I had enough images to capture the ever shifting mood of the scene.

Finally, the sun settled behind some clouds on the horizon. I never had the warm glow of the setting sun on the Cliffs of Moher that I had envisioned. But, I had my own unique version of the Cliffs – two rainbows and a dramatic stormy sky overhead. Overall, it was a magical and memorable evening. I hope this image conveys some sense of the magic that we felt that midsummer evening at the Cliffs of Moher.

Dingle Harbor

Dingle Harbor

The rising moon and clouds lit by the setting sun hang over beautiful Dingle harbor

My favorite part of our trip to Ireland was our time on the Dingle Peninsula. It was everything that I hoped Ireland would be and more. The scenery was beautiful, the music was enchanting, the people were friendly, and the food was plentiful and tasty. I can’t imagine having a better time. I only wish that we could have stayed there for a week or more.

Our stay was made even more perfect by the hotel we stayed in. The Castlewood House is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It’s either a large B&B or a small hotel. In either case it’s a perfect place to stay. The owners were helpful without being overly inquisitive. The breakfasts that we had there were some of the best I’ve had in my life. The rooms were modern and yet filled with antiques. All that and the walk to “downtown” Dingle was maybe five minutes. I can’t recommend Castlewood House highly enough.

This image was made just after dinner and just before the live music began in the pub we were in that evening. I kept looking up from our table to see how the light was looking. My long-suffering wife shooed me out of the restaurant knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy the music if I had missed the sunset. I spent twenty or thirty minutes taking in the show as the clouds turned cotton candy pink above Dingle Harbor. This image is a bit soft but it gives a glimpse of the pretty little town and harbor of Dingle. 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.