Opinions

Sunset View

by Bret Edge | September 30, 2010

© Bret EdgeWhile assisting at a photo workshop in Arches National Park, the leader called it quits when warm sunset light failed to materialize. We all packed up our camera gear and loaded into cars for the trek back to Moab. No sooner had we hit the main park road than a faint wash of color started spreading through clouds above the La Sal Mountains to the east. Not wanting to miss a possible opportunity I whipped into the Salt Valley Overlook to wait and see what developed.

The spectacle that erupted before me was unlike any sunset I’ve witnessed in Moab – and I’ve seen some spectacular sunsets here. Rich light broke through clouds to the west and painted distant cliffs brilliant shades of red and orange. Dramatic clouds hanging above the scene graduated from muted hues to vibrant colors dripping with saturation. It was one of those moments nature photographers see far more often in dreams than unfolding before their disbelieving eyes.

The drama unfolded so quickly and I was caught so off-guard that I could do little but stand in awe. I’m afraid I would have missed the entire show if I had chosen to run around looking for a composition. By the time I found a photo, set up my camera on the tripod and dialed in the correct settings this most spectacular moment would have been over forever. I would have been fuming over not only failing to make a photo but even worse, missing the whole darn show!

Standing in the parking lot I watched as a young tourist in a red jacket climbed atop a large boulder for a better perch from which to enjoy the sunset. Once on top she stood facing the scene, no doubt enjoying it every bit as much as I was. And then, it hit me. That was the photo!

In retrospect I probably scared the daylights out of her when I yelled, rather excitedly, “Don’t move!” I grabbed my camera and started composing a photo. From ground level something was missing. I opened the door of my truck and balanced on the doorsill, resting my elbows on the roof while holding the camera. BAM! There it was. I managed to make three exposures of the girl in a red jacket gazing out over the landscape before she hopped off the rock and came up to ask why I wanted her photo. I showed her the photo on the camera’s LCD screen and explained that it would make an amazing stock image. I gave her my business card and offered to mail her a print if she’d be kind enough to sign a model release. Her ears seemed to perk up when I explained that the image would likely end up in a magazine or tourism calendar. She gladly signed the model release and we went our separate ways.

I would have been perfectly content only to witness this outrageous sunset. But by keeping an open mind I was able to make a photo that has already been licensed several times. No doubt had I been in the right place to make a pure landscape image on this evening I would have been quite happy with my photos. By including a human element I think the image is even more evocative. Viewers will connect to the scene more viscerally as they subconsciously place themselves on the rock with the girl, in the moment.

Susie at sunset © Bret Edge

About the Author

Bret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret's creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret's work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret's images, visit www.bretedge.com.

Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

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