Okay – so I’ve been practicing sunsets. It’s more difficult than it looks. Of course, sometimes you just get lucky as in this February shot.
This is unusual in that it’s in an urban setting at street level. The only reason it works it because of the intensity of the colour – unfortunately this astonishing sky was more the result of atmospheric pollution than a wonder of nature. Never mind. Win some, lose some.
On the whole, street level doesn’t work for sunsets. Sunsets are wide-screen events and for this you need height. Easier said than done, because for height you need to get out into the countryside. Have you ever tried driving along a country road? Have you ever tried driving along a country road with some idiot doing 90 mph behind you whilst you’re trying to find somewhere to pull over? Give me the M25 any day.
One obvious spot is Shotover, which has the benefits of being high up, being a dead end and having somewhere to park. This subtle winter shot captures one of the essential qualities of sunset which is the way the the land darkens whilst the sky remains light.
On Saturday, I headed out towards Stanton St John, which is roughly south (I think – geography not a strong point) . It was here that I began to realise how limited a camera is when compare to the human eye and discovered that, in order to “trick” the camera into capturing the sunset, you really need to take the picture from a low angle. There may be other methods such as using a graduated filter (sunglasses for cameras), but that might mean having to use a tripod because of the longer exposure time, which could be a bit tricky on an uneven grassy verge.
Another feature of sunset photography in high locations at this time of the year is that the earth hasn’t had a chance to warm up yet, so that any warmth disappears with the setting sun and your fingers get cold. You also have to be aware of all those 90 mile-an-hourers, so I decided that my next not-so-royal-hunt-of-the-sun would include a hi-viz vest.
One of the things I like about this particular picture is the way it captures that sometimes metallic quality of the sun – is this perhaps the origin of mankind’s love affair with gold?
On Sunday, I thought that I would give Elsfield (familiar from the ill-fated banded snail project) a go. This is a quieter road and, unlike some of the other routes, there are frequent places to pull over. It was still cold, but what really struck me this time was the special quality of quietness that seems to go with the sunset. It’s not silence – there’s plenty of background noise from the birds – are they rejoicing in the exquisite beauty of these few minutes on the borderland of day and night? There’s a stillness, though, something to do with being in a landscape where the underlying shape of the land has remained the same for millions of years – that sense of smallness in an environment that’s vaster and older than this small human brain can comprehend.
Anyway, I got some nice shots.
The slightly curious feature of these particular clouds is that they are the man-made in a naturally clear sky. These are the contrails (vapour trails) of aircraft (of which there seem to be an enormous number) which are gradually dissipated by the wind to form natural-looking cloud formation. These are skies that no-one would have seen before the twentieth century.