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Slippery When Wet

Feb 13, 2008 In my most sage like voice, I advised: "When watching the sunset, don't forget to turn around", having been asked for a sunset photography tip. This advice wasn’t received well by the original recipient, thinking it was my way of not revealing some photographic secret. Left in a huff, I never did manage to explain myself saying: “but…, but…, but…”.

Photographers have long known to look for soft warm light at sunset - even the mobile phone camera wielding amateur is compelled to take a snap of the setting sun. The setting orb is aglow with warm pleasing colors, a complete contrast to the harsh, blinding mid day sun. It's a transitional time, between day and night; a primordial signal deep in our being to prepare for the coming darkness. It is easy to fixate on the setting sun as the primary subject for a picture.

As any photographer, who has spent time in the field can attest, dramatic sunsets are rare. More often, the setting sun is obscured by low distant clouds on the horizon, or enveloped in the haze that accompany modern city life, or any of the other reasons that result in a dull picture. Even in these cases the warm setting rays of the sun shine through and can be used by the intrepid photographer to light a subject. Portrait photographers seek out this light, the warm soft light is flattering to the model’s complexion. Landscape photographers can also take advantage of this light, do a quick search on the internet for 'alpine glow' and you'll see what I mean. The thing of it is - the photographer has the setting sun at his back when taking those pictures. That has a familiar ring to it, a rule perhaps?

On this day, while miraculous in marking the end of a wonderful day, the sunset from a photographic standpoint wasn't anything to get excited about. The sky was cloudless, without drama, making for a mediocre picture. However, turning around to face away from the sunset, I noticed the soft warm light highlighted the natural variety of colors in the cobblestones, while the fading light allowed for a long exposure to give the incoming tide a foggy ethereal look.

Don't forget to turn around.



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