It's all about the light.

Remembering childhood sunsets

Sunset at Steel Rigg, Northumberland

Our friends at Rocky Nook kindly offered the opportunity to write a short article about The Photographer's Ephemeris to be published in conjunction with a webinar they offered last week, presented by Glenn Randall.

I wanted to say a few words about the origins of Photo Ephemeris and its links to Glenn's expertise and the skills he taught on a workshop back in 2008. In thinking about that, I recalled how, during my childhood in the north of England, the movement of the sun across the year was very apparent to me.

We lived on the western outskirts of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and my bedroom looked out over the fields of Northumberland, due west towards the subject of the photograph above (Sunset at Steel Rigg).

The photo is looking back towards Newcastle, more or less due East, but the city is not visible. The photo was taken in late March a few years ago. It was one of those peculiarly cold periods where the winds blow from the east (not that common in those parts), bringing cold continental air to the UK. The temperature barely rose above 2C for the two weeks I was there, and most days remained entirely overcast, with the dryest, unfluffiest snow you can imagine falling sparsely and slowly.

I was frozen. Nonetheless, I wanted to get out to try some photography and, finally, one afternoon towards the end of the trip the weather was looking marginally better. I drove out west half an hour or so and parked at Steel Rigg, then set off along Hadrian's Wall to see what views I could get.

The sun emerged for only two minutes - so-called 'gap light' just before sunset, which you see captured in the photograph. Until that burst of warmth, it had been a rather drab scene. Happily, the sun picked out the path of Hadrian's Wall leading into the shot, the remarkable geology of Northumberland, and the dusting of snow on the landscape.

If you've ever asked yourself questions such as "Why does the light turn golden towards sunset?", or "How can you know if the north-facing slope will receive direct sunlight?", then I would highly recommend Glenn Randall's books:

Glenn Randall - Great Landscape Photography

The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography, 2nd Edition

Glenn Randall - Dusk to Dawn

Dusk to Dawn: A Guide to Landscape Photography at Night

And of course, you can explore the direction of the light in this location using Photo Ephemeris itself. This link shows the light hitting the mid-ground rock formation in the shot: March 28 2023 Last Light at Steel Rigg.

Thanks once again to Glenn and Rocky Nook for covering Photo Ephemeris in last week's webinar, and for the opportunity to contribute a post to their site.

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