During a stressful news cycle like this past week’s, the best thing to do sometimes is put down the phone, turn off the TV, go outside and bliss out to the autumn sunset.
The evening sky during this election week caught the attention of Tribune-Herald photographer Rod Aydelotte and that of popular Waco nature photographer Brian Boyd, who blogs at brianboydphoto.com/Images-of-Waco.
“Every year from now to the end of the year seems like the clearest time for sunsets,” Boyd said.
Science backs him up on that point. Clear air is the key to vivid sunsets, and that is more abundant in fall and winter, according to a 2014 publication by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, written by Oklahoma-based meteorologist Stephen Corfidi.
“Because air circulation is more sluggish during the summer, and because the photochemical reactions which result in the formation of smog and haze proceed most rapidly at that time of the year, late fall and winter are the most favored times for sunrise and sunset viewing over most of the United States,” Corfidi wrote in “The Colors of Sunset and Twilight.”
The last rays of sun travel thousands of miles before they reach us, passing through air molecules that scatter the blue and violet light, leaving reds and oranges. In fact, the very phenomenon that causes a deep blue daytime sky on the west side of the U.S. can make for a red evening sky on the eastern side, according to the publication.
Clouds are another ingredient in an ideal sunset, and the best are high clouds such as cirrus and altocumulus clouds, which reflect light that has not been muddied by dust, haze and pollution in the lower atmosphere, according to Corfidi.
Boyd also said clouds are an essential part of the picture, and photographers often need to wait long enough to see them light up, sometimes after the sun has slipped past the horizon.
“A lot of people leave as soon as the sun goes down, but the scene doesn’t really pop until the sun has gone beyond the horizon,” he said.
It is also important to avoid overexposing the picture and “blowing out” the rich colors.
“I think the most important thing is to find the right location,” Boyd said.
He staked out a spot Wednesday at Lake Waco to shoot sailboats against the red evening sky.
“You need a good foreground, a tree or lake or a rock in the water,” he said. “Just taking a picture of the sky doesn’t do it.”
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