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THE SETTING SUN

“It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.”

Carl Sagan

It is the Earth’s atmosphere that creates the magical colors of sunsets. As the Sun descends towards the horizon, it’s light has to pass through more and more of the atmosphere, about forty times more than at midday. The light is dimmed, scattered and reflected as it passes through the thickening air, bent and twisted around the very rim of the Earth. The shorter wavelengths, blues, greens and yellows, are scattered first, leaving the longer wavelength oranges and reds to dominate, as the Sun gets progressively lower in the sky.

Pure, clean air produces the most dramatic sunsets creating vibrant, jewel colors. Muted, pale yellow and pink sunsets are more common in the summer months when summertime haze and dust fill the air and soften the colors. Moisture bearing clouds and humid air also mute colors leading to the leaden gray and autumnal brown palettes.

 

Sunset Watching

Wherever you are in the world every sunset is different. That multiplies up into millions of spectacular sunsets at the end of every single day. Sunsets paint our skies every evening, yet every one is unique. It’s a sight that always captivates me no matter how many times I experience it.

All over the world, people are enthralled and inspired by these natural light shows, drawn into their magical, other worldly quality. They gather on beaches and headlands, hills and mountains, even tall buildings in order to witness and photograph this daily ritual of day becoming night. They feel a sense of excitement as well as a peace and calm as they watch the sunset unfold. Sunsets are good for the soul as well as your photo library. Then, before you know it, all too soon, the Sun has dipped below the horizon and tonight’s show is over.

Well that’s what most people think, and they pack up and head off home. But actually Act II of the performance is just about to begin.

 

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Twilight Bounce

At the beginning of twilight, when the Sun has disappeared below the horizon, the colors in the sky change, often becoming more spectacular than before. The fading sky saturates the colors even further and shades of orange shoot upward from the “off-stage” Sun. The clouds become the magicians of the sunset show. They reflect the light and, illuminated from below, transform the sky around them. It is this ever-changing "twilight bounce" of light off the clouds above that often results in the most spectacular sunset skies and sunset photos. Do stay around long enough to experience this dramatic finale.

 

“The Setting Sun”, appearing nightly in a sky near you. Entrance is free. Bring your own wine, and of course your camera. Enjoy.