Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunrise, Sunset

By Janie Blank

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night sailors delight. I have a passion for sunsets! No two are alike. When we were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last winter, over a six week period I took over one-hundred and fifty pictures of the sun setting over the water. I actually took many more than that. That is just how many I saved.

I use a Minolta Dimage-X digital camera that is now several years old. It only has a 3X zoom so does not offer as much impact as some of the newer models. I do zoom in on the sunsets quite successfully though. The best thing about this camera is its size. It is a little more square and flat than most of its vintage. It is easy to stash in a tiny purse or in my husband’s breast pocket.

My friend came to visit us for a week and she has a much more expensive camera with a 10X zoom. The problem is she never seems to have it with her when the right shot presents itself because it is too large and she doesn’t like to haul it around! It also takes her awhile to get her shot. Many times I am sure she could have gotten a technically better shot than what I can get with my camera, but she misses the opportunity because she can’t get it ready quick enough. She bought it because she wanted to get action shot so her children sliding into second base, or kicking a soccer goal. However the best shot of her daughter getting a hit last summer was taken by me and my little Dimage-X because, you guessed it, I was able to do it as quickly as the shot demanded.

I will give one word of warning on my Dimage-X. The lens is in a strange place and the user needs to be vigilant that a fat finger does not partially obstruct the shot. I am used to my camera so I rarely do this any more, but if you ask someone else to take a picture of you and your friends you need to warn the person to hold the camera in a less traditional manner. The lens is in the upper right hand corner as you hold a camera. I am now in the habit of placing my right hand on the bottom of the camera to avoid the temptation. But that being said, the camera is small and handy and takes a great picture.
But getting back to sunsets, they are slow to materialize, and they are right on time each night so you have plenty of advance warning. You can take another shot every minute and get a totally different picture. You can move a few feet to the right or left and again, a different look. The view from where we stay is looking out over the Bay of Banderas. The bay is the second largest in North America and the view is spectacular from our perch in Los Altos- the heights- an area up the mountainside.

The variations are amazing. I might capture a shot right as a flock of birds fly across the setting sun. I have numerous pictures of boats, out on a sunset cruise, or coming in from a day of fishing, right as they cross the bright red swath of light reflecting on the water. The clouds can give the photographer an incredible array of options. The sun can sink into the clouds gradually and you can snap away coming up with all sorts of looks. I have one I call “Witch on a Broom”. Some evenings you think the sun is gone but it then reappears out from under the cloud and another series of shots await you.

Because the camera is so small I almost always have it with me. If we walk down to dinner early we might capture the sunset from the beach and this provides a completely different look. Maybe a beach vendor will be walking along the beach or someone will be playing his guitar. Sometimes children are wading in the surf and I get a shot of them with the sun setting behind them. I have some pictures where the red from the sun is reflecting in the sand.

Sunset watchers talk about the “green flash” that you see right as the sun hits the water. I cannot capture that with my camera and do not know if others with more sophisticated equipment are able to do so. I usually stop snapping long enough to just watch and enjoy this phenomenon of nature.

I love the sunsets, and we face the west so they are readily visible. The sunrise is behind us and comes up quite late over the mountain in the morning. We do not actually see the sunrise, but what we do see is the pink sky reflected in front of us on the bay. This is a beautiful sight as well and I have been able to capture it quite clearly. When we were there last year there were several days where the sun was rising, shooting gorgeous streaks of color across the sky while at the same time the moon was setting over the water with the pink sky as a backdrop. Wow! I got up early just to make sure I got as many pictures of this as I could.

When I got home from Mexico I made a slideshow of sunsets using my Apple Mac Mini iPhoto program and its Ken Burns effect feature. The slideshow pans in and out and make it look almost like a movie. You can add any music you like to this. I use this as my screensaver or sometimes I just turn on the slideshow and relive my winter.

This summer I have tried to get excited about doing a series of sunsets over the lake where we live. We have gone out on the boat at sunset several times and you can actually get some decent shots as you move closer and closer to the west end of the lake. I even took some pictures with birds flying across the sky at the precise moment. I tried to get some water skiers under the sunset but I cannot get enough of an angle with my camera to get both water and sunset from the boat. The variety of shots is just not enough to warrant the effort. It seems once you are hooked on seeing the sun slide into the ocean, watching it sink into a clump of trees is just not the same!

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