July 23, 2008

Photo of the Week: July 1, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Many years ago, I photographed a sunset at the Grand Canyon. There was an observation point along the road where about 25 tourists had gathered, but as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, all but three of us went on our way. One of the other photographers quipped to me, "This is where you separate the amateurs from the pros!" Why? Because the best light from a sunset often occurs about 15-20 minutes after the sun disappears. He was right, as the best shots of the evening came a short while after the crowd had vanished.
Despite being among the most commonly photographed subjects, sunsets frequently yield disappointing results. After all, how can you take a wide expanse of sky, the unique mood of twilight and a process that often lasts more than an hour and reduce it to the blink of an eye? Well, you can't really. Although I've taken many very satisfying sunset photos, I still find myself chasing after a good one and studying the sky in the late afternoon to see if clouds and weather patterns will combine for a good celestial show.

This shot was taken near the city of Sderot, on the way back from a trip to Gush Katif two years ago. I was traveling with friends when we noticed the colors forming in the sky with only a few minutes to spare before the sun disappeared. We jumped out of the car and looked for some high ground. Often with sunsets, I'll look for some interesting terrain to add to the composition, but in this case the horizon was just a straight line over flat ground, which didn't add any interest to the photo. Choosing to include only sky, I then focused on forming the best possible composition. Placing the fireball at the bottom of the frame was a bit unconventional, but it seemed to fit nicely at the tip of the downward spiral formed by the clouds and colors. Finally, the narrow, vertical format accentuates the patterns in the sky and the downward motion of the setting sun. In retrospect, this was the right cropping decision, but I still hedged my bets by taking a few horizontals as well, and sticking around for another 10 minutes.

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