Looks Fake, Looked Faker in Real Life

A truly photo worthy sunset over the Sierra Nevada

A truly photo worthy sunset over the Sierra Nevada

When watching sunrises and sunsets is part of your job description, it's easy to forget the fact you are witnessing a minor miracle a couple of times a day.  Jaded might be too strong a word but you tend to develop a connoisseur's disdain for the unexceptional. But mother nature has a way of reminding you who the real artist is. Case in point, I was walking along the Owens river one fall evening hoping for a 'decent’ sunset to photograph. It wasn't looking too promising as a rapidly thickening blanket of clouds threatened to cancel the event altogether.  In the race between the gathering clouds and the setting sun, it looked like the clouds were going to claim the prize. "Looks like it's going to be a bust," I thought but decided to stick it out anyways. As the sun sank to meet the peaks of the eastern Sierra, a golden glow illuminated the entire valley. There was an amazing quality to the light that I’ve only rarely experienced. It felt like the light wasn’t emanating from the setting sun as much as from the air all around me. Then, the sky exploded.

Although I was alone, I'm pretty sure I  said "this is unreal" out loud more than once. Then I bent down over the tripod and got to work.  I’ve been to this rodeo enough times to know that staying calm is part of the secret to success so I tried my best to adopt a zen attitude. Breathe. Focus. Breathe. Focus. I 'worked the scene' as best as I could trying various compositions and camera settings, only pausing occasionally to let out a quiet “oh wow." I clicked off a few dozen frames before I knew that the moment had passed. As the light faded, I stopped shooting and watched the final act in reverent gratitude. This, I thought, is why I do this.