The Sunset is Not Over Till It's Over
January 20, 2020 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Help me develop strategies to stick around see the sunset after the sunset?

I am a lover and photographer of sunsets. Usually sunset watching happens between activities. There are usually 2 phases of sunset. The one that happens when the sun goes over the horizon and another one that fills the sky with colors about 10 to 15 minutes later. Often there is a lull between the 2 phases at which I think the sunset is over and I leave. Later I am surprised to see the sky filled with colors. I am disappointed that I didn't stick around because I had other activities planned that were less important than seeing phase 2.

Intellectual knowledge of past experience doesn't seem to help. I see the lull and make the assumption almost every time.

How do I acquire the patience to see the sunset through
posted by Xurando to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Set a timer for 30 minutes when the sunset starts. Don't leave until the timer goes off.
posted by cooker girl at 1:06 PM on January 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

To elaborate: It feels to me like when I set a timer, I'm much more aware of the feeling of having set a timer and won't forget about it. Like, I've set this timer and now I know I've set this timer and so I will remember that I have the timer set. YMMV, but psychologically it works for me.
posted by cooker girl at 1:08 PM on January 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bring something to do during the scheduled 15 minutes. Plan to read one chapter in a book, or a short story, or bring some knitting.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on January 20, 2020

Don't plan to see the first sunset, plan to see the second one.

Depending on how far you are from your sunset viewing location, plan to get there after the sun goes down over the horizon. You've seen that before and you'll see it again, but this time you don't give a heck about that one. THIS TIME you're gonna go see the afterglow.

I've seen the afterglow. Trust me, it's worth it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:38 PM on January 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

Learn to appreciate the subtleties between the two main events: there are color washes and distributions that are unique. Depending on your landscape and time of year, the acoustic story changes, too. Even city birds notice the sun has gone down, and have their progression of behaviors.

Realize that there is no "second phase" unless there are visible clouds in the sky. Without clouds, you don't get the local interception and high-altitude reflection of blue-deficient light that makes those glowing crimson displays.

Start drinking a glass of wine when the sun contacts the horizon, and take your time at it.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm a sunset photographer. When I walk out to see the sunset, I notice it's harder to stay than when I used to drive out and have somewhere to sit and hang out until the afterglow.
posted by freethefeet at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2020

Try photographing away from the sunset and then photograph the sky after the sun is down. Living on the east side of Lake Champlain I've noticed that the best light is up and down the waterfront and back towards shore as the sun is settling, then once the sun has fully set you can turn and begin to watch the slow creep of color back across the sky. By deliberately turning in this way you can embrace a new perspective which may help alleviate the feeling that it must all be over and is time to go.

The best after sunset color generally comes when there are clouds overhead, but not as many or none to the west. So, with experience the quality of the later light is a bit more predictable as well.
posted by meinvt at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I was a bit more into taking photos I'd consult charts about like this one. Basically, there's three kinds of twilight, depending on time of year, for example -

First there's civil twilight (8:41pm to 9:11pm) which is basically what most people consider the "sunset" - the moment the sun goes below the horizon. By 9:11pm the sun is 6° below the horizon. It's used because at this point the human eye has difficulty resolving terrestrial objects.

Then there's nautical twilight (9:11pm to 9:48pm), by 9:48pm the sun is 12° below the horizon. It's used because at this point the human eye has difficulty resolving the horizon line, important for nautical navigation. This one also tends to be the more interesting twilight.

Finally there's astronomical twilight (9:48pm to 10:28pm), by 10:28pm the sun is 18° below the horizon. Beyond this point the sky will become "full dark" and indistinguishable from night. This is the one I'm usually looking for as I also take star photos.
posted by xdvesper at 2:17 PM on January 20, 2020 [8 favorites]

If there are clouds in the sunset creating rays of sunlight, or 'crepuscular rays', you might want to turn around and see if you can capture the rarer 'anti-crepuscular rays' (where the beams reconverge on the eastern horizon)'s an...odd effect. Also on the eastern horizon during sunset you can often observe the 'belt of Venus', usually pink above grey, caused by the atmosphere casting a shadow on itself. After the sunset, particularly in spring (and before sunrise in the fall) you can sometimes see the 'zodiacal light', in a pillar rising from the horizon above the sun. This is caused by sunlight back-scattering from interplanetary dust. It's pretty faint, so a moonless night and less light pollution are usually required for capturing it.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:39 PM on January 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

To elaborate on what meinvt said, the best sunsets require a cloud cover with a gap at or below the horizon. Sunlight passing through the maximum possible atmosphere goes through the gap and illuminates the clouds from underneath. If there's no gap, the light is absorbed by clouds below the horizon. It's also true of sunrises.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:46 PM on January 20, 2020

Can you set up a secondary activity that will definitely take at least half an hour, so that you feel that you are sticking around to engage in this second activity, not just killing time? Maybe taking a timelapse with the goal of recording from the sun setting to the first stars emerging, or recording and identifying bird song, or doing a particular yoga routine, or bringing a little camping stove and making yourself a cup of a hot beverage to enjoy as a reward for waiting so patiently?
posted by DSime at 2:59 PM on January 20, 2020

The suggestion from a couple commenters to take the time to turn around is a good one. This is also good to keep in mind when photographing lots of other events besides sunsets. Witnessing the effects that a profound moment has on the people, environment, or objects around you is often better than the event you're ostensibly there to see.

Aside from that, you could try to stop thinking of your excursion as seeing the actual sunset and think of it more as seeing the friscalating dusklight.
posted by theory at 3:01 PM on January 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, wrote the piece "Due Tramonti" (two sunsets) after having the experience of driving through Tuscany with his father. They saw a wonderful sunset on a particular evening - and then realised that they could see it again by taking the road from the valley floor to the top of a nearby rolling hill.

If you find yourself in a hilly landscape, then you can reverse the step that Einaudi and his dad followed, by waiting for the "first sunset" at the top of a hill - and then driving down towards the valley floor until you see the second "afterglow" one; no need to hang around!

A couple more things to be aware of:
1. The Green Flash - sort of like a third sunset in your terms - should you be so lucky as to see it.
2. The technical differences between "Civil Twilight" (where the sun is between 0 and 6 degrees below the horizon - what most people term 'Sunset'), "Nautical Twilight" (the 'afterglow' period where the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon) and "Astronomical twilight" (between 12 and 18 degrees - the point when where we have reached "dusk" - the last moment before complete darkness).
posted by rongorongo at 3:38 AM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another reason to turn around, at least before the sun drops below the horizon: if it's raining to the East, there may be a rainbow over there.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on January 21, 2020

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