Sky on Fire

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This has been an incredible week for sunsets! After last Tuesday’s amazing sunset, which was one of the best of the year, tonight’s sunset may well be one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in Vancouver.

Conditions were looking promising throughout the day, with some thin, wispy clouds that promised to catch the colour from the setting sun, but as the golden hour approached, a thick layer of haze and cloud started to move in from the direction of Vancouver Island. Arriving at my chosen location, Acadia Beach near UBC, the sun was all but invisible, showing just as a very slight blob of brightness through the clouds.

The one bit of hope was the tiniest gap that looked clear right on the horizon. On very rare occasions, this allows the last rays of the sun to peek through and light up the clouds from below. This often happens five or ten minutes after the apparent sunset, due to the curvature of the Earth. However, it is very, very rare that it happens at all — I always try and go out whenever these conditions look possible, but I probably make 20 failed trips for every successful one.

Tonight was definitely one of the successful trips, although for a long time it didn’t look as though it would be. The gap on the horizon glowed a faint orange as the sun passed it, and then faded back into grey, and I was almost about to pack up my kit, but decided to give it another five minutes. Slowly but surely, the clouds began to glow brighter and brighter colours, until the sky and water was a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and pinks. I’m very aware that anyone who didn’t see this sunset will look at this picture and assume I turned the saturation up to 11 in post-processing, but I can assure you that this only begins to capture the incredible colours of this sunset. At one point I looked behind me at the trees at the edge of the beach, and they appeared to be lit up by sodium lights, they were glowing such a bright orange.

The amazing display lasted until almost 25 minutes after sunset — this shot was taken at the peak of the colours, a remarkable 17 minutes after the sun had set. It really was an unforgettable display. I used a circular polariser and a graduated ND filter to control the brightness of the sky, and an aperture of f/11 to get the depth of field required for the nearby rocks. I was standing in about a foot of water for this shot, but that hardly seemed to matter!

beach golden hour seascape sunset
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