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January sunset west of Sioux Falls.
January sunset west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
Evolving sunset colors west of Sioux Falls.
The view just 10 steps from my front door on a mid-January evening.
The view just 10 steps from my front door on a mid-January evening.
Sunset sky above the road to West Nidaros Church near Baltic.
Sunset sky above the road to West Nidaros Church near Baltic.
A bit further down the road as the clouds caught the setting sun’s last light.
A bit further down the road as the clouds caught the setting sun’s last light.
The first photo of a magnificent sunset above Falls Park in mid-February.
The first photo of a magnificent sunset above Falls Park in mid-February.
Even the southeast sky filled with color above Queen Bee Mill at Falls Park.
Even the southeast sky filled with color above Queen Bee Mill at Falls Park.
Spring breaking through winter at Falls Park.
Spring breaking through winter at Falls Park.
The colors changed to pink and blue for another unique color combination.
The colors changed to pink and blue for another unique color combination.
The parting photo from the Falls Park sunset adventure.
The parting photo from the Falls Park sunset adventure.

Fire and Ice

Feb 24, 2016

It hasn’t exactly been a long, cold winter, but for a photographer who likes summer thunderstorms and night skies filled with the Milky Way and the call of nighthawks, it has been at least been a long winter. The short days are finally lengthening again, and it seems that spring is making an early push. I’m not complaining, but there is one thing about winter that I tend to miss during the high heat of summer. Sunsets come early in the evening, and the warm, fiery colors in the southwest sky contrasted with the cold, blue-toned snow and ice is one of the visually exquisite gifts of winter.

I haven’t been able to get out and shoot as much as I’d like this winter, but because the sunsets tend to happen around “quitting time,” I do occasionally chase a sunset if the mood strikes and the sky looks promising. The first few photos of this collection show the evolving colors of a sunset on a January evening in Sioux Falls.

The last few photos happened just last week as one of the most spectacular and unexpected sunset skies blazed for a few minutes over Sioux Falls. Earlier in the afternoon, the clouds looked promising for a colorful sunset. However by the time I broke free of my daily duties at around 5:45 p.m., it looked as if the sky would totally cloud over. There was still a slim opening to the sky in the southwest, so I took a chance. I gathered my gear and headed to Falls Park. As I was driving there, the sky began to bloom with color and I realized it was going to be good. But that’s when the stoplights and traffic on Cliff Avenue slowed to an agonizing crawl. I was sure that I waited too long, and now the busy Sioux Falls traffic was going to keep me from capturing anything worthwhile.

When I arrived on the east side of the park the parking lot was full. I grumbled under my breath, realizing I would have to park as far away as possible from the spot where I wanted to set up. Meanwhile the sky was turning more beautiful by the second. Once the engine was off, I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and began to half run, half slip and slide my way down the sidewalks to the overlook. Like an unknown Marvel superhero, my hands were a blur as I ripped open the bag and assembled the camera to the lens and then to the tripod. Snap! I got the first photo. Whew! Relief and joy descended down my spine, and the tension of possibly missing the shot began to melt. The sky turned orange, and then pink and purple. I shot video clips and multiple bracket shots of the falls, and it was all glorious.

The recent warm weather had caused the ice on the lower part of the falls to disappear, yet there was ice cover over the top. The resulting view and relatively warm weather (for February) along with the fiery colors in the sky really made the scene before me look like spring was breaking through Old Man Winter’s grip right before my eyes. Maybe a beginning of the end of another long, cold winter in South Dakota? I hope so.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

Comments

03:44 pm - Sat, February 27 2016
Stan Hamilton said:
Thank You so much for sharing your experience with us. Your pictures show the world what it's like to be there, seeing it in person! I realize the winters are long and hard, but the wife really doesn't want that kind of life away from our kids, however, I believe that they would only gasp at the beauty that South Dakota holds year round! Thank you again for your wonderful Fire and Ice story!
Stan
09:42 am - Mon, March 7 2016
Ellen Davis said:
I'm from Bison and have always loved the prairie sunsets. One of the most memorable for me was coming up out of Pierre on Highway 14 toward Bison about sunset after a long spell in California in the Army with my husband. I nearly cried and shouted "This is what I love and miss about South Dakota.

Just a prairie girl at heart
Ellen Davis

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