Sunsets: More than just the end of the day

Too often in life, I find myself rushing through the day busy with errands, chores or work, rarely stopping to take in God’s creation around me.

Even when Veronica and I go for hikes, I rarely stop and just enjoy nature. Generally, we are after a goal or a sight or the top of a mountain or whatever, but it’s not often that we stop and sit and listen to the nothingness that comes with nature – taking time from our busy lives to truly get away from it all.

This is one of my favorite photos I've ever taken. I only include it in my sunsets post because I don't think all sunset shots have to include the actual sun. I love the color in the water, and the reflection of the bird in this shot at Venice Beach.
This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. I only include it in my sunsets post because I don’t think all sunset shots have to include the actual sun. I love the color in the water, and the reflection of the bird in this shot at Venice Beach.

A great example of this is sunsets. Most of my life, I’d see a pretty sunset, smile and maybe snap a quick photo and move on.

The rise in point-and-shoot digital cameras and camera equipped cell phones made it all too easy to grab a quick shot and call it good. Getting amazing photos with these devices is pretty rare. Recently, though, as Veronica and I have found a bit more passion for photography we’ve been really trying to take our time to get good photos. That includes waiting for good lighting, stopping and thinking about what is and isn’t in the shot, and biding our time for the perfect shot.

The sun gave a strange pillar of fire effect on the water for this shot from one of the overlooks next to Grandview Drive above Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.
The sun gave a strange pillar of fire effect on the water for this shot from one of the overlooks next to Grandview Drive above Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

I’ve worked with a lot of amazing photographers in my career as a journalist, and while I likely will never be as good as they are, I’ve tried to pick up tidbits here and there.

This is stretching it a bit as far as sunsets go, as the sun is pretty high still. But it is still one of my favorite photos. I shot this from the overlook near the corner of Union and 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle.If only the giant tanker ship wasn't behind the Great Wheel ...
This is stretching it a bit as far as sunsets go, as the sun is pretty high still. But it is still one of my favorite photos. I shot this from the overlook near the corner of Union and 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle.If only the giant tanker ship wasn’t behind the Great Wheel …

One example was when Veronica and I flew to Los Angeles to attend my friend Scott Frasnelly’s wedding last fall. We stayed two nights in Manhattan Beach, which offered stunning views of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. The first night, I snapped a few photos of the sun when it descended, but didn’t bother to really work for anything special, just figuring a quick in and out job would work.

That was reflected in the shots. They were acceptable, but nothing special.

I took this photo from our hotel room in Hermosa Beach, and while I really like it, I think I could've done much better if I would have invested the time needed to get a great shot.
I took this photo from our hotel room in Hermosa Beach, and while I really like it, I think I could’ve done much better if I would have invested the time needed to get a great shot.

Our second night staying on the beach, we went down to Venice Beach so Catarina could play in the sand. This time I decided to wait until the sun actually set – much to the annoyance, I think, of Veronica, Catarina and Veronica’s parents, who were with us. But it was well worth it. I got some great shots of the sun playing on the top of a breaking wave, and I also used some objects to give the sunset some depth, including a bird and a sailboat.

After not taking my time shooting the sunset at Hermosa Beach, I took my time at Venice Beach and got lucky when I captured the sun shining on the top of the wave.
After not taking my time shooting the sunset at Hermosa Beach, I took my time at Venice Beach and got lucky when I captured the sun shining on the top of the wave.
I was shooting photos of the sun going down with the sail boat in the background, and I got lucky with the man walking out of the surf in this shot.
I was shooting photos of the sun going down with the sail boat in the background, and I got lucky with the man walking out of the surf in this shot.

Fast forward to this spring, and I’ve tried to do the same type of thing at Chambers Bay Park. We were lucky to buy a house within half a mile of the park – which also features the Chambers Bay Golf Course, which will host the U.S. Open June 15-21. Recently, I walked down to enjoy a sunset.

I love the shadow the mountain peak casts on the glowing water in this shot. A really random effect I wasn't expecting when I was taking the photo.
I love the shadow the mountain peak casts on the glowing water in this shot. A really random effect I wasn’t expecting when I was taking the photo.

The view has a lot to offer. There is the Puget Sound, the one tree at Chambers Bay, a few islands and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. The night I shot these particular photos, I lucked out that there were a few clouds, and that there was a barge making its way to the Tacoma Narrows. This gave me the opportunity to frame the boat in between the sunlight and the tree.

I waited until this tug boat and barge were framed by the sun on the water and the tree at Chambers Bay Golf Course to give a bit of action to this shot.
I waited until this tug boat and barge were framed by the sun on the water and the tree at Chambers Bay Golf Course to give a bit of action to this shot.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from my photographer friends is trying to frame shots. Doing this in landscape art can be difficult at times, but it is well worth it.

Anyway, next time you find yourself watching a sunset, stop and enjoy the moment and don’t take such beauty for granted.

The Tri-Cities has lots of river access, and since it is relatively flat, you can get some fantastic late night sunsets on warm summer evenings. I always liked this shot because of the color reflecting on the Columbia River.
The Tri-Cities has lots of river access, and since it is relatively flat, you can get some fantastic late night sunsets on warm summer evenings. I always liked this shot because of the color reflecting on the Columbia River.
This was taken with my iPhone in Odessa, Texas. It is so flat in Odessa, that when the sun sets it appears you are driving straight into it. It is an amazing sight.
This was taken with my iPhone in Odessa, Texas. It is so flat in Odessa, that when the sun sets it appears you are driving straight into it. It is an amazing sight.

If you want some good professional advice, read my friend Kai Huei-Yau’s blog from when he worked at the Tri-City Herald. It’s funny and informative, though no longer active.

– Craig Craker

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