Share |
A lone tree at sunset near Skunk Creek just east of Hartford, SD. Click to enlarge photos.
A lone tree at sunset near Skunk Creek just east of Hartford, SD. Click to enlarge photos.
In just ten minutes, the colors had shifted dramatically.
In just ten minutes, the colors had shifted dramatically.
The east fork of the Vermillion River just north of Parker, SD.
The east fork of the Vermillion River just north of Parker, SD.
Fishermen silhouetted at sunset at Island Lake northeast of Montrose, SD.
Fishermen silhouetted at sunset at Island Lake northeast of Montrose, SD.
Canova’s baseball field at dusk.
Canova’s baseball field at dusk.
West Nidaros Lutheran Church between Crooks and Baltic.
West Nidaros Lutheran Church between Crooks and Baltic.
Sunset rays above Benton Lutheran Church just west of Crooks, SD.
Sunset rays above Benton Lutheran Church just west of Crooks, SD.
The last light of the day colors a thundercloud above the Missouri River north of Chamberlain.
The last light of the day colors a thundercloud above the Missouri River north of Chamberlain.
Post-sunset color above a cornfield in Minnehaha County.
Post-sunset color above a cornfield in Minnehaha County.
Buffalo graze below a September sunset in the Sage Creek Wilderness area of <a href='http://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm' target='_blank'>Badlands National Park</a>.
Buffalo graze below a September sunset in the Sage Creek Wilderness area of Badlands National Park.
Colored clouds above Pactola Reservoir west of Rapid City.
Colored clouds above Pactola Reservoir west of Rapid City.
Minutes later, the colors had changed again.
Minutes later, the colors had changed again.
November sunset at Lake Alvin just east of Harrisburg, SD.
November sunset at Lake Alvin just east of Harrisburg, SD.
Higher elevation clouds reflect beautiful hues nearly a half hour after the sun set at Lake Alvin.
Higher elevation clouds reflect beautiful hues nearly a half hour after the sun set at Lake Alvin.
A nice buck emerged from trees flanking the Bad River about a half hour before sunset in late November.
A nice buck emerged from trees flanking the Bad River about a half hour before sunset in late November.
Railroad tracks along the Bad River Road at sunset.
Railroad tracks along the Bad River Road at sunset.
Christian got into a hooting contest with this Bad River Road denizen.
Christian got into a hooting contest with this Bad River Road denizen.
Sunrise over one of Christian's favorite bends in the Moreau River between Dupree and Isabel, SD.
Sunrise over one of Christian's favorite bends in the Moreau River between Dupree and Isabel, SD.

No Two the Same

Nov 26, 2012

 

Early last week I had to work later than usual. I happened to catch a glimpse of a particularly beautiful sunset out our westward-facing window and began lamenting the fact that I wasn’t out shooting photographs. A co-worker patted my shoulder and said sardonically, “You know there will be more of those, right?”

In a sense, he was very right. Our South Dakota skies are often painted brilliantly by the rising and setting sun. And yet, he was also very wrong. Of all the sunsets I have chased, I have never seen any two the same. This fact is probably the number one reason I enjoy shooting sunsets. When the conditions are right, it is nearly impossible to find a better view in nature than a northern plains sunset. In fact, when I see higher altitude clouds scattered in the western sky in the early evening, I start to get twitchy and anxious. I begin to run through nearby locations in my mind that might offer a new and interesting silhouette and/or foreground to shoot. I then lose focus on whatever it was I was doing and grab my gear and hit the road. This probably isn’t normal, but it’s the truth.

The really ironic thing is that I chase sunsets more for the joy in the moment than actually “getting” the photograph. The hour around dawn and dusk is a truly magical time of day. Not only is the light lovely, but this is also the time of the day when chances of seeing (or hearing) wildlife are the greatest.

Love them or hate them, there’s nothing that quite compares to hearing choruses of coyotes call and answer from hilltop to hilltop in pre-dawn light. Just a few evenings ago I was shooting a particularly colorful and spectacular sunset southwest of Ft. Pierre along the Bad River Road while being serenaded by a Great Horned Owl. I couldn’t help myself from playfully hooting back a time or two. Later as I was loading my gear, I noticed the owl flutter to the top of a nearby tree. I couldn’t help but hoot at him again. I’m sure it was quite a comical scene to anyone who may have witnessed it. (Luckily there was no one around.) Anyway, the owl stayed perched there another five minutes or more. This was long enough for me to change lenses, set up my tripod and snap a few portraits of him in the dimming light. He even stayed still enough during the long exposures so as not to blur in the photo. Wow, a beautiful sunset and an interesting wildlife image all within 15 minutes of each other? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here are a couple quick tips on shooting sunsets that I’ve learned over the years. Use a tripod. This will help reduce camera shake due to opening the shutter long enough to let adequate light in. If you don’t have a remote cord, use your timer function when shooting to further eliminate camera movement. Bracket your photos. If you don’t know what that means, I’d recommend looking it up and/or checking your owner’s manual on how your camera does it. Basically it is shooting multiple images of the same scene at different exposure settings. This betters your chance of getting the correct exposure and it also affords you the opportunity to play in the realm of HDR editing if you so choose. The biggest tip is to simply go out and try. Experience is the best teacher. At least it is for me anyway, and who knows, you might get serenaded by a lonely old hoot owl. You won’t know until you try.

 

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 our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog



Comments

08:43 am - Mon, November 26 2012
Heidi said:
I love the sunset over Moreau River! Good work, as always, Christian.
05:20 pm - Mon, November 26 2012
Lisa said:
Stunning shots as usual, Christian!
07:04 pm - Mon, November 26 2012
Laura said:
My favorite is #14, because the stripes in the sky's colors remind me of bacon.
09:20 am - Tue, November 27 2012
Chad Coppess said:
Beautiful stuff Christian. I've chased many a sunset myself and found that it's hard to go wrong no matter where you are in South Dakota.
11:26 am - Thu, December 6 2012
Deana Brodkorb said:
You express so well the joy of the chase, and of capturing some of South Dakota's beautiful skies. I haven't "chased" sunsets for a long time. I need to start again. Thanks!
06:39 pm - Thu, December 6 2012
Deb Russell said:
Growing up on a farm in SD my mom told me a famous artist came to SD to paint our beautiful sunsets. It didn't make sense to me because I thought there must surely be sunsets everywhere. Have lived many places since and I miss those sunsets so much. Thanks for your photos.
10:46 am - Wed, December 12 2012
Sam Royall said:
I lived in SD 1954-55 (Brookings) while Dad taught at SDSC (now SDSU). You South Dakota people can't know what you've got. I hope you will vow to hold on to your priceless culture.

Share your thoughts, post a comment to this story:

Your Name:
Your Email Address:  
Your Website:
Comment:  
2000 characters remaining
Captcha
Web Design by LVSYS