Sunset Maelstrom: A study of a sunset and a tree

Sunset Maelstrom

It had been a wicked long day for me.

I had been up well before dawn, and since it was winter, that meant being quite cold. Today, the temperature started at -14 below zero, so cold meant cold. It was the kind of cold that seeps deep into your bones and takes up residence. The kind of cold you feel for hours and hours afterwards, and even as I write this, I am shivering. Although I am certainly not a fan of cold weather, it is something I take in stride. Or, more accurately, something I attempt to take in stride.

I had been chasing the light all day, and, aside from a beautiful sunrise, had very little to show for it. A thick, heavy cloud deck moved in over where I had been photographing in Utah, and it was not going to budge for anything. There was little to do for it, and my time was up. I pointed my vehicle southward toward home and began the long drive through the dreariness. The day wore on and eventually, the sun’s time was up as well. Nighttime would be here shortly.

Somewhere around Lewis, Colorado, it all began to change. At last, I had driven to the edges of the clouds, meaning there was promise for something interesting. I continued down the road, watching the sky and clouds carefully as the sunset began in earnest. The gray of the day was replaced by vibrant colors of reds and yellows and oranges as the sky began to light up with an intensity I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Alas, there was simply nothing that caught my eye to make an outstanding photograph along the road.

I was almost out of time when I finally found what I was looking for. A lone tree, standing in a snow covered field, was bracing itself against the maelstrom behind it! Perfect! Unfortunately for me, there was simply no way to get to the tree, as it was far away and behind fences. At the last possible moment, just as the colors reached their peak intensity, I spied a mound of snow alongside the road. Perhaps it would be just high enough for my purposes. Heedless of anything else, I bounded up the snow pile, which proved to be high enough, but also not very stable or solid. As I was sinking into it, I somehow managed to create Sunset Maelstrom. Moments later the colors muted then faded, but that’s OK. I crawled out of the snowbank, but I wasn’t bothered by the cold a bit this time.

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