I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do have something of a New Year tradition. One of my first pictures of the year is typically from the waterfront a half dozen miles from my home.
This became somewhat of a tradition well before I even realized it was one. I live near Seattle and winter can be a bit gloomy here. During our shortest days of the year, the sun rises just before 8 and sets shortly after 4. People who work in offices may miss daylight entirely.
Then there’s the weather. Even when the sun is up, rain clouds may block the view.
Sometime in the first few weeks of the year there’s an afternoon where the clouds part just enough to let the sun shine through. I reflexively grab my camera and head to the beach.
The trip is always worth it. The sunset usually ranks as one of the year’s most spectacular. The golden sunlight illuminates the bottom of the clouds, throwing fiery colors from horizon to horizon.
We got such a sunset a couple of weeks ago. As I set up my tripod on the beach my first thought was that I had taken this picture before. But that’s fine. I wasn’t after something new. I just wanted to go outside and enjoy some sunshine while I had the brief opportunity.
But as I thought about it, I realized I hadn’t taken this exact picture. The clouds are different every time. This time, the thin crescent moon made an appearance. A couple of gulls zig-zagged over the water in front of me.
There are trillions of possible combinations. I have experienced only hundreds.
The thing is, the idea that every moment is unique is the core of my photographic philosophy. I believe that nature is dynamic, that every scene changes from one moment to the next, even if it’s just the movement of one grain of sand. Occasionally I must remind myself to put that philosophy into practice.
When we’re in a hurry, we reduce spectacular settings to basic labels. A mountain range. Water. Clouds. But if we allow ourselves just a few minutes to slow down and truly take a look, we usually find so much more.
While it seems easy to do this with a grand vista, fact is, I’m amazed at how much I find in my own neighborhood if I just slow down and look. This is the driving force behind my Five Minutes in Nature project. It’s about slowing down, taking a few minutes to appreciate the natural wonders that are all around us, wherever we are.
There will be a new book and an exhibit opening later this year. If you want the details, sign up for my mailing list.
But for now, here are a few of my first sunset pictures from past years.