Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sunset Huntington Beach Pier

Growing up with the sun enlarging as it nears the shore, glowing orange as it sizzles into the Pacific Ocean, is a birthright for Orange County children. There were so many romantic scenes that I shared with young girls when I was young…and had no idea what to do with them. Imagine that: I was just a shy young photographer of, what, 14 young years of age, blue eyes, brown hair, attracting little girls my own age. Neither of us knew what to do. We just played around in the sand, waited until the sun set;…then got kicked off the beach for being accused of what we didn’t even know what to do.

There were so many girls I just laid with on top of life guard towers; I guess they were waiting for me to do something, make the first advance. I had no idea what to do. I was scared. I’d always been scared, of doing something with a girl I didn’t love.

The real truth is that I had no idea what love really was. More on that later.

I’d always loved the way the sun set in the Pacific. When I took astronomy in college, I’d done so to learn how we came to be. I learned that as the sun sets, light from the sun does a few things that makes it weaker…or different.

Sunlight that falls directly downward from the equator is the strongest, because of two reasons: One, any light that projects from an angle has a measured amount of decrease; Two, when light travels through the atmosphere it is filtered and weakened.

This second part can be explained like slicing an orange. If you slice an orange at its center, the peal is the smallest. But, if you slice it near it’s ends, the distance of the peal is deeper. Compare that to the amount of atmosphere light would have to travel to reach the surface of the Earth. The more air light travels through, the weaker it gets; and the more colored it gets.

This is how photographers find their color. It is so beautiful to see the Sun travel through the atmosphere. It goes from white, to yellow, to orange, to red, to dead…and people just pause to watch it.

I got pissed off, as a junior in high school student, when my leading photos didn’t make it to the yearbook cover. The cover was a generic shot of the Huntington Beach pier at sunset. What a common shot (I thought).

Fast forward to the day when I took June W. to San Diego shore, to let her experience a Pacific sunset. This is what I told her:

I had my camera. I told her that when the sun sets in the West, it happens very fast and that, if you want to catch it, you have to pay attention.

I said, “Watch the people, the couples, as they approach the shore. Just before the sun touches the waters, they will all pause, turn towards the sunset…and then just watch…”

And as they did, so did she. It took me back; It totally reminded me of that one time I was with this little young blonde 14 y/o on a lifeguard station. She was entranced. June was entranced. I saw a glow in her that I’d not seen since…well, since childhood.

Okay, well then, when June and I were on our honeymoon (years later), we’d gone up to the Upper Peninsula, on Lake Superior. It’s way North, so the sun sets much slower. When I’d first saw it set; that orange sun, I’d just had to get a photo of it. I’d had a few drinks and wasn’t thinking straight when it came to gathering the right equipment. It took me three trips to get all the right lens and equipment. But, because we were so north, the sun takes much longer to set, so it was in my favor.

Anyway, so I’ve got my 35mm camera, tripod, lens, and everything, and I’m set. So, I’m going to get the most romantic sunset on Lake Superior. And as I do that, a family approaches: mother, father, son, two daughters…one of which walk up to me.

She’s sixteen, has a T-shirt, “Lansing, Michigan”…and she has the same gaze. I’m sitting here firing off my photos as fast as I can before the sun sets, and she approaches me. Without looking at me, she says, “I’ve never seen a sunset.”

And that point, I realized that Lansing is land-locked…and she’s not looking away from the Sun. And I thought, ‘This is what June’s first sunset was like.’ This is her Pacific sunset, so to speak. This is her virgin sunset.

It was at that point that I realized that I should never take any image for granted.

I’ve thought about it a lot since then. I’d like to go back to college for photography. I’ve done a lot of self-studying on my own. There are a lot of dimensions to photography.

Photography was my first love. Computers were my second love.

And I just don’t want to not do what I love…I can’t.

-- Without Wax


Have Myelin? said...

I love photography too and it frustrates the heck out of me. I have a great camera and because of everything that's happened (nevermind the fact my cognitive fog gets in the way due to MS) I can't make it do what I want it to do.

I can visualize what I want but make it do it, no.

Yep, I've seen those virgin sunset looks on people's faces before. Quite remarkable...and something to capture in a photograph. =)

sincerelysober said...

Dear Myelin,

How can I say this...

The lens is there for you. Still photography is, in so many ways, a way to say: look, this is what I see beautiful in the world. It is a time and place to stop the world for a closer look.

Everyone wants to stop every once in a while. To let them all pause for a moment, and just view the thing that another person imagines as beauty is...more that a gift. It's a connection.

People view things in two ways: video and still photography.

Video tells a story.
Pictures illustrates that story.

And you can't hand a video on a wall...LOL.

Oh, and thanks for the thought connection.

-- Without Wax