As we drove down to the causeway, the view above literally stopped us in our tracks. And so the seeds of this post were sown. What is it about sunsets in particular which ignite something both artistic but also primeval in us all? We'll all happily watch a sunset develop for hours, while exploding into explosive irritation at being forced to stand in a queue for 1 minute. Is it that timelessness which makes sunsets so all absorbing to the viewer? Or maybe something else related to our hectic modern life. As you read this, I wonder what it is you yourself gain from watching a sunset?
Budle Bay 21.15 hours
Looking at these photographs in early September, I can recall every detail of this view. It also makes me realise that now, sunset is about 7.45pm. In Northumberland in mid June it was 21.45pm. Celestial motion stops for no man.
By the time the above and next two photographs below were taken on Bamburgh beach, it was well after 10pm. The colours intensified with the passing minutes. In all it had taken us nearly 2 hours to drive the 20 or so miles back to Bamburgh. The four of us were reluctant to head back to the hotel, and even at 11.30pm I looked out of the bedroom window and an orange glow still emanated from the north. I do miss the long day length Northumbrian summers.
So what is a sunset? Well I'm sure most of you know, but in essence as a ray of white sunlight travels through the atmosphere to be viewed by us, some of the spectrum of colours are scattered by particulates in the atmosphere. Blues and greens being of shorter wavelength than other colours scatter quite strongly and are in effect removed further from the visible light spectrum than say the warmer red colours. Along comes a sunset when the distance the white lite has to travel to your eye is longer than at mid day. The short wavelength blues and greens are scattered almost completely, leaving the warmer long wavelength warmer hues to dominate the sky. This warm red light is then further dissipated by clouds (which also have additional atmospheric effects) and dust particles allowing the intensity of the light to, well, intensify. It is these latter dust particles which generally make sunsets more dramatic and longer lasting than sunrises, as usually more dust is in the atmosphere in the evening than in the morning. and of course once the sun sets, what we are viewing then technically becomes a twilight.
Back to my sunset images from this summer.
I'm not sure whether it has been the unseasonal nature of this summer's weather but I feel I have witnessed some dramatic skies after what appeared to be inauspicious days.
From the house. July 1st 20.39 hrs
I've mentioned before that my house looks west towards the Black Mountains of Wales. To get to the horizon, in the middle distance is the estuarine Bristol Channel. Ever since moving down to Somerset, I've been aware of sunsets of staggering magnitude and proportions, often after a wet day. The light intensity in this part of the world is very strong, with the prevailing wind straight off the Atlantic. However the Channel itself is muddy in colour, I've often wondered therefore whether this brown sea adds something to the atmospheric colouration. After all the sea does reflect blue light back to the atmosphere, making the sky blue, or at least that's what my grandmother told me!!
From the house. 17th August 19.39hrs
Being on the west, sunrises of note are few and far between, however sometimes just before sunrise produces fantastic cloud formations for a few minutes, until like a magician with an illusionary trick, the clouds dissipate and the sun rises again.
It is as I've said, sunrises which fascinate me. and so the following photographs have all been taken from my house in the last month. I've added the date and time just for interest.
20th August 19.11 hours
20th August 19.12 hours
20th August 19.30 hours
20th August 19.37 hours
The next two photographs illustrate what is a regular occurrence here. This was August 26th. It had rained all day, not just any old rain, but a torrential downpour, which finally ended about 6.30 in the evening. I was in the office working away when all of a sudden a shaft of bright light illuminated the room, such brilliance after a wet, dark and quite frankly depressing August day.
26th August 19.41 hours
As often happened after a wet day, just before sunset the clouds seem to lift up from the horizon, just enough for the sun to almost say, well that's your lot for today, see you tomorrow. Which in turn provides some dramatic and as in this case Apocalyptic skies.
26th August 19.42 hours
This final raft of sunsets have been taken this week. I'm on holiday and this week at home with my parents visiting me. After a hard day chatting and catching up, what better way to relax than watch a sunset develop over the Bristol Channel.
30th August 18.55 hours
30th August 19.16 hours
30th August 19.19 hours
1st September 18.13 hours
1st September 18.43 hours
And so as we head into autumn and then winter we will of course experience more sunsets, but I do feel the summer of 2011 has been an exceptional sunset year, for me at least.
~~~~ POSTSCRIPT ~~~~~
As if to prove my point in the above post, this afternoon it began to rain, torrential rain (why I came indoors to blog). But just now at 19.45 the clouds parted near the horizon as they often do in bad weather and this was the view out the back of the house just a few minutes ago, yet it was still raining on the house. Another magical sunset on a wet evening in September. So I'll let the photograph I've just taken below end the post..............
4th September 19.45 hours