Pic of the Week 8/26/22
“The Sunset Watcher”
Location: Thornberry, TX
Date taken: 8/10/22
Sunset WatcherThe skeletal remains of a tree gaze upon a stunning sunset over open pasture. I wonder how many sunsets this tree has watched. © Ben Jacobi
There is just nothing quite like a good ol’ Texas sunset! I have always had a fascination with the Texas sky. Some people may think this area is boring and flat, and while that is true, the skies always come alive over here. Sure, we don’t have mountains, or canyons, or waterfalls, or old growth forests, but there is something majestic about a stunning sunset over an open prairie. With the frequency of sunset we see, you would think we get tired of them—but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! And when great sunset opportunities arise, I will almost go out looking for something to put in front of it.
A few weeks ago, we had some weather roll in that brought a small trough of low pressure. This was a nice change to the blazing 100F days we were experiencing, but it also brought clouds. Clouds are what makes a sunset so great. Now don’t get me wrong, you can still have nice sunsets without clouds, but the clouds act like a sponge and soak up every drop of color the sky has to offer. Not to mention, they add another layer to the atmosphere creating more depth in the scene. We were expecting nice conditions for sunsets all throughout the week and we ended up going out three times. The first two were unsuccessful, too much cloud cover, but on the last day we were greeted with a spectacular sunset not too far from home.
It stated out like any other sunset shoot. Get home, grab camera gear, and go looking for compositions around our area. Thunderstorms and rain showers were bringing fascinating cloud formations from Oklahoma where they would begin to fizzle out once they crossed the Red River. These orphan anvils and remnants of the storms would stretch and thin as they encountered the more stable air giving them an almost fibrous appearance. These high-altitude clouds are perfect for sunset photography, that is if low thick clouds don’t blot out the sun. After driving the backroads near Wichita Falls, we started north towards Thornberry. There are a few interesting trees and barns in the area, and I thought those could work well for our subject.
We arrived on location to a quirky tree trunk placed just off the main road. This tree has a lot of character and every time I drive past it, I think to myself, “This would make a great silhouette.” The skeletal remains of the tree create an interesting shape as the gnarled branches reach skyward. I don’t know how the tree ended up this way. Judging by the split in the trunk, I assume it was the victim of a lightning strike. Somewhere after 2008 the tree is died (according to Google satellite imagery). Either way, it served as a great subject to shoot.
While we were waiting for the peak color of sunset, a flock of scissor-tailed flycatchers danced on and off the branches of the tree. Instead of complaining and jeering at the birds, I incorporated them into my composition and utilized their iconic silhouette to add more interest to the image. Look closely and you can see the bird in the branches. The flycatcher hung around for a few minutes and then was off to fight in other territorial spats. We stayed and watch the sunset enjoying the cooler temperatures, clouds cover, and rain-cooled breeze throughout the evening. The sun continued to burn into the clouds well after sunset. Even on our way home hints of reflected light shone on the underside of the high clouds eventually dying off in the blackness of the night.