My Favorite Light

light

On the way to take my wife to see a movie tonight, we waited at a red light and I had to get a quick shot of this impending sunset. It’s not a great picture, and it’s far from a gorgeous sunset, for that matter, but this is actually a good example of my favorite kind of light: the kind that streaks across the sky and creates sharp silhouettes.

There are lots of small mountains to the west of Las Vegas, but they usually appear to be just a drab, uniform row of jagged rocks. But, at the right time of day, at the right time of the year, the sun sets at an angle just right for sending its rays through the gaps between them, reminding us that they’re actually layered silently and dozens of miles apart.

In the picture above, starting in the middle and looking left, there are four distinct mountains visible, each highlighted by a unique brilliance of sideways light; a different quality of sunlight slides down diagonally through the spaces separating them.

Light shows us the size of the empty space that was invisible before, while giving each of the pieces of mountain stacked side by side over there its own personality.

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Vegas Skies

Some more recent local sky views:

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Sunrise just started touching the mountains to the west.

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Sunset 4.11.16 part 1 of 5. Thomas Cole could have painted this.

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2 of 5

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3 of 5

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4 of 5

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5 of 5

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A sunset last week, by Aliante Station

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Heading east on Cheyenne, late afternoon sun catches one small mountain.

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Darn you, Savers sign! This was almost epic.

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13 Pictures of Death Valley

I took these pictures with my phone’s camera during a spontaneous family vacation this last weekend.

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Sunset from Zabriskie Point, January 1, 2016

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Cloudy afternoon at Mesquite Sand Dunes, January 2, 2016

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Cloudy afternoon at Golden Canyon, January 2, 2016

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Golden Canyon, January 2, 2016. Here, I love the contrasting brightness of the three triangles in the composition. I like the vertical shot for a similar reason.

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Late afternoon through the clouds from a narrow passage in Golden Canyon, January 2, 2016

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Sunset from Golden Canyon, January 2, 2016

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Looking out over Death Valley at dusk from Artist Drive, January 2, 2016

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Late Summer 2014 Photos

Some of my favorites as I review the contents of my tablet from the last two months:

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows.  In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky.  Here, I also like the dark tone.

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows. In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky. Here, I also like the dark tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

Great shade of blue in this one.

Great shade of blue in this one.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Directly above the previous picture.

Directly above the previous picture.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014.  We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait--standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014. We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait–standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

And into this nearby field.

And into this nearby field.

Going...going...

Going…going…

A small pool created by the setting sun.

A small pool created by the setting sun.

Sun's almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

Sun’s almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

The horizon is giving birth  to a sun.

The horizon is giving birth to a sun.

Desert Dusk

We’ve long since reached that point where the days are so long that the sun no longer rises in the east and sets in the west; it rises in the north and sets in the north.  Daylight Saving Time notwithstanding, I spend the last month or so of each school year driving to work in daylight so bright it might as well be high noon.

Las Vegas in the summer can be frightful.  Nothing illustrates the parched environment here better than the summer sky.  It isn’t blue.  It’s white.  The parts of the sky farthest from the sun–the horizon, for most of the day–are a pale, robin’s egg blue, but most of the sky is a dead albino.

You know how a sign or book left in the sun for months or years will get all the color sucked away, leaving a washed out shell of what it was?  The sky itself gets like that here.

But then the sun sets.  And life gets amazing.  The temperature instantly drops ten degrees.  Color returns to a world blinded by too much light.  A landscape that has been holding its breath all day gets to relax.

For that one hour that starts right after the sun goes down, the world is a milder, dimmer, calmer place.  It’s still hot, and it’s still bright, but within reason–the insanity of the last fifteen hours is over.

People often say that everybody seems nicer during the holiday season; that as they Christmas shop, strangers are more likely to nod your way and smile.  Summer dusk is like that.  There’s a camaraderie.  We made it through another day, together.

It’s worth enduring the day to enjoy the twilight.

Sunset Regret

Two mornings ago, I saw one of the most beautiful sights of my life.  As I walked out to my car at six a.m. to leave for work, just as the sky was barely starting to turn from black to blue in the east, I saw the full moon, radiant, hovering just over the western horizon, its glow illuminating the highest ridges of the mountains in a haunting echo of light.

But I just got in my car and left.  Yesterday it didn’t look quite as good, and today, when I actually took a camera outside with me, I found that the moon had already waned enough that it was just an oblong blob, and far too high in the sky for its light to connect with anything.

So I wasted a chance to preserve–and share with you–one of the best things my eyes have ever been blessed with seeing.  But I’ve seen the moon like this on other mornings over the years, and I’ll remember this and try to find the scene again next month.

Sunset Boulevard

Las Vegas at dusk, courtesy of Airship Solutions: http://www.airship.com.au/news/LasVegas.html

Although I often complain about how hot and dry my desert is, and how much I’ve always wanted to live somewhere green and

Las Vegas sunset, courtesy of Flikr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hallublin/4232636644/

 rainy, there is one thing that I truly love about living here: sunsets in the Spring.

There’s something about the atmosphere here.  I don’t know if it’s related to the wide landscape, or to the jagged layers of mountains to our west.  Maybe it’s all the air pollution.  Whatever causes it, we have the most colorful, evocative, pristine sunsets I can imagine.  For some reason, they’re especially brilliant this time of year: a hundred hues of the palette bleed in and out of each other from the rocky horizon out across the sky far back into the darkening east. 

I think it would be great to find a scenic spot on the east side of town (maybe around the temple?) and take a picture of the sunset from that same spot, every day for a year.  The range of effects would be impressive over that span of time, the surprising array of variations on the same simple background would be sublime.  It would make a fantastic book. 

Even better than the sunsets themselves is the longer dusk: that magic hour after the sun sets until it starts getting really dark.  It’s already fairly warm by this time of year, and the moment the sun retires, everything instantly gets much cooler.  You can almost feel steam rising off the world.  Two years ago, I went camping out in the desert and had to sit with my back to the sun to get any kind of relief.  I knew without even facing west that the sun had gone down because the pressure on my back was suddenly ten degrees lighter.  I turned around for the physical confirmation: the glowing, liquid gold outline along the top of the mountain ranges; sharp, bold streaks of grade-school art sunlight shooting through the few clouds that squatted near the edge of the sky. 

That dusk hour in the Spring is truly a heaven, a pleasant oasis of perfect proportion: the temperature is like floating in clear, cool bathwater, the light still visible enough to be day, but subdued as if a silk shade had been drawn over the blaring, garish sun.  For about sixty minutes between the fierce heat of day and the dark nothingness of night, we float in a peaceful dreamland of celestial comfort. 

In my heaven, the weather would be like that all the time.