Orange: Sky, Flames, Balloon…

The first thing I noticed when going through my photos for the orange challenge is that I take a lot of sunset pictures! I made a point to mix it up and narrowed it down to twelve shots, then checked out how they looked together and settled on six. Then I realized I’d forgotten to upload one, and couldn’t bear to leave it out, bringing the gallery up to seven.

Ragged clouds in a blue sky, lit up yellow-orange just like a Maxfield Parrish painting…a bird of paradise flower…a cosplayer at Comic-Con dressed in a jumpsuit, wielding a Portal gun…ocean waves reflecting another sunset, made even deeper orange than usual by smoke from a wildfire….visiting the big orange balloon at Orange County’s Great Park…torches lighting the gateway to Adventureland at night…and finally a sunset shot, silhouetting the Manhattan Beach Pier…

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Sunset in the Corner

Sunset Silhouette

When I have time to compose a scenic photo, the rule of thirds is usually on my mind. Even if I’m not putting an object off-center, I’m trying to line up visual borders with the 3×3 grid — a horizon, or the top or side of a building, or a treeline. Sometimes symmetry works better, though…and sometimes I’m just trying to get a snapshot of someone or something.

In this case, I stopped by a store after work and arrived just as the sun was about to set, at the top of a hill, giving me a clear view to the west. When that happens, you don’t go inside, you stop and watch!

(What I really wanted was to catch a nearby farm-style windmill silhouetted against the sun, but unfortunately the best place for that was in the middle of a crosswalk across a busy street, and I wasn’t going to trust in my ability to stop, aim, take a few photos, and get back to the side.)

Fleeting Rays of Sunlight

Fire Dragon

I’m fascinated by the interplay of sunlight and clouds, particularly oddly-shaped clouds and optical effects like haloes and sundogs. The trick with photographing them is that you have to take the picture now. You can’t run and get another camera and come back. You can’t wait until you reach your destination even if it’s only 5-10 minutes away.

Lighting conditions will change. A halo might get stronger, or it might vanish entirely. A cloud that looks like a flaming dragon or phoenix right now will be a dull gray in a few minutes. Patterns of rays will fade from view. I’ve missed my chance a lot of times by being stuck on the road, unable to find a suitable place to stop until the moment had passed.

Light Rays After the Storm

Flying into the Sunset

Feathery Not-a-Rainbow

This last shot is a circumhorizon arc formed by ice crystals. It always appears parallel to the horizon, like a flattened out rainbow, and if the crystals cover enough of the sky it will actually form a circle all the way around the sky. I spotted it while walking back to work from lunch and only had my phone with me — and I actually ran the rest of the way to the office so I could get my camera. I was lucky, since these really don’t appear very often.