I’ve seen many sunsets. And since I’ve joined the military, I’ve seen more than enough sun rises, ha ha. I’ve seen the sun set into Mt. Fuji, disappear into the horizon miles away from land in the Pacific Ocean, melt away the smog as I sit in traffic on the 405S in Los Angeles and hide behind the Duomo in Florence as I sat atop Piazza Michaelangelo. What exactly makes for a beautiful sunset?
The answer is subjective. In my opinion though, the best pictures of sunsets involve the beach. It could be the dead of winter, but for some reason, seeing the sun exude its aura of colors over the horizon while it disappears into the ocean, gives me the warmest feelings in the world.
Regardless of what locations you think give you the best images of the setting sun, one thing is clear; in order to show those images properly, you need to right equipment. You also need to know what to focus on.
In my best sunset pictures, I focus on something other than the sun. For one, it is dangerous to look through your view finder and stare directly at the sun while finding your focus. Secondly, if you focus on the sun, you’ll probably going to find that your image also includes sun spots and flares. Not good if you want a beautiful sunset image. Focus on a cloud or the darkest color you find in the sky.
I also recommend using a tripod if you don’t have an expensive DLSR camera that can take great images with an ISO over 2000 and not show noise. If you don’t have a tripod handy, find a flat surface to put your camera on. Since you will need to shoot it with a low shutter speed, use your cameras self-timer to snap the shutter. That way, your camera will not feel the slight movement of your fingers as it closes the shutter.
When this sun set on me in Borneo, I felt alive. Perhaps it was the good company of a new friend that I was meeting for the first time, and the visions of what was to come as we spent a few days together in this paradise. The colors were unlike any I could remember coming from a sunset and as the setting sun went deeper and deeper into the ocean, the sky grew from yellow to orange to red. As the sun died for the night, she kissed me and I felt more alive than ever.
As with most things, science has a perfect explanation for why we see the colors we do at sun set and what makes each setting sun unique depending on where you are in the world. But science will never be able to tell me or you, why we feel the way we do when we stand amongst this world’s beauty and reflect on our place in it at this time in our lives.
I went back to Borneo earlier this year, a year after the photograph was taken. I no longer spoke to that girl I met and for some reason, none of the sunsets I saw during my three days there looked the same as they did that first night when I met her. Funny how life and nature can be that way. Yet, perhaps, somewhere else in the world, I was making someone else happy and her sunset was beautiful.