Another Boring Sunset. Words & picture by Nick Small.
The camp fire contemptuously spits pine resin at the man made fibres that keep the mosquitoes off my legs. Ignoring the threat of spontaneous combustion, I pick up my camera to take this shot. It is the umpteenth photograph I’ve taken of this particularly riotous display in the past hour or so. My good friend sitting next to me, sharing the view and the Akvavit, pipes up “I really don’t get the point of taking photos of sunsets”.
I’m quite taken aback. He’s a visually creative fellow, my companion, and a dab hand with a camera himself. He’s also fully aware that I have photographed the evening light and the way it plays upon this particular skyline so many times over the past five years that it has become a standing joke.
“It’s just a sunset” he volunteers, “Everyone seems compelled to take a photograph whenever they see one”.
I say nothing, but as I continue to shoot the ever changing view, I start to think. Maybe he has a point. Why do we find so alluring the sight of the sun, glowing warmly as though medicated by a nightcap, slipping into its slumber, leaving us in darkness until morning? Why do we in photography and film refer to this, and the period around dawn as The Magic Hour? Why do the hoards flock to the West coast of Ibiza to get all giddy and spiritual as the big disk does its stuff?
Maybe it’s primal. Perhaps, just the knowledge that they’d made it through the day without being eaten by a sabre toothed tiger was enough to get our ancient cousins high on endorphins.
But then that doesn’t explain why artists have, for centuries, tried to capture the light, the colours of the spectrum, the liquid palette shifting, moment to moment as the sun daubs the clouds with carefree abandon (for a truly great sunset, you need cloud). I don’t suppose anyone said to Turner “Oi, Billy boy, it’s nice and all that, but knock the sunsets on the head, they’re a bit tedious”.
I look at the glowing embers in the campfire and the wisps of smoke dancing their way heavenwards. Then I look back at this view. Be it fire, sunset, the structure of a fern, a starry night, or the ripple a trout leaves in the centre of a lake….Nature creates more vividly than we ever can. All we can hope to do is capture or emulate the essence of what we’ve seen, and perhaps share our joy and wonder with others.
The ire in me subsides, and so I bathe in the unique beauty of what I’m privileged enough to witness. Inevitably, I come to a rather obvious conclusion: to be tired of sunsets is to be tired of life.