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A Season of Sunsets Over the Salish Sea — Part 2

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

Late fall and winter bring storms that can make for dramatic light at sunset. But you have to leave the warm comfort of home at dinner time to photograph it.

Clouds move in from the southwest, forming a herringbone pattern under thicker layers as a slight break on the horizon allows for a touch of color. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Late fall is the start of the rainy season in our area. Clouds are frequent and heavy, Days are gray and somber, and a light drizzle prevails. Colorful sunsets are unusual, but sometimes the clouds break in the late afternoon and dramatic light happens.

Those conditions are fairly unpredictable, so if is not raining heavily, we simply get in the car and make the short drive to the beach in hopes of something dramatic. More often than not there's no drama, just boring grayness.

At the end of a stormy day, a five minute break in the clouds allows a golden ray of light to briefly illuminate the sea and give dimensionality to the underside of the overcast sky. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

If there is a secret to getting a photograph in dramatic light, it is to be there—with a camera.. But that is not quite as easy as it sounds—especially when it is windy and cold at dinnertime and when it would be sooo much more comfortable to stay inside, have dinner and conversation, and that glass of wine.

It is a test of character, I suppose. One that I fail more than I succeed. But this blog is about the few successes.

Air temperature was near freezing and a stiff breeze from the west constantly re-shaped the clouds as they sailed over the beach at low tide. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

One such day was last winter. The temperature was just below freezing in late afternoon and getting colder. Our first snow would fall later that night. Worse, the wind was blowing, But, low tide coincided with the sunset that evening, so I thought the beach would be worth a look.

Lines of clouds were scudding quickly from west to east, consolidating and then breaking up. The tide was way out, leaving broad and shallow pools to reflect the clouds and colors. The light was very interesting but the conditions were challenging. My face and fingers were very cold and the discomfort made composing the image difficult.

Later, the same evening as the previous photo. Clouds cleared further, revealing the pastels of the western sky amplified reflecting from the pools of low tide. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Before long, the wind had cleared most of the clouds. The pastel hues of a post-sunset sky were amplified by their reflection in the pools of low tide. The delicacy of the scene belied the bitter conditions, but I stayed on—for the light.

I am glad I persisted because now—in the warm comfort of my office—I can more fully appreciate the moment.


Last light at low tide after a stormy day. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

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