bookends

Pictures of sunrise and sunset are frequently listed as photography clichés to avoid, the argument being that they all pretty much look the same. The sun goes down, the sky turns orange.

I disagree. And here’s why.

We are mesmerized by sunrises and sunsets for reasons far beyond visual interest. Like bookends to the day, the sun rising above and setting below the horizon encloses a single day of 24 hours. Unlike days or weeks or months, which seem somewhat arbitrary measures of time, the day is an easily defined unit. We settle our disagreements before the sun sets. Recall the old adage, “Don’t go to bed angry.” And we wake up, each day, with a fresh slate, a chance to try again, to be better than before. When my son struggled with anxiety in high school, we began every day with a simple mantra, “Today is a good day.” And we still text this reassuring message to each other most every day.

It is at these moments, when the bookends of daybreak and nightfall draw near, that we glimpse our frailty, and that experience can leave us in awe, in fear, and in deep gratitude.

If you are content taking a picture of anything,  

If you can find a way to see the ordinary routines of life in fresh ways,

If you can see every first light as an invitation,

And every disappearing sun as a gift,

Then no picture you make will ever be a cliché.

In my large collection of photographs I had not taken a single photograph of a sunset. The bookends of the day, dawn-to-dusk, are something I had never fully appreciated. I am task-oriented by nature and sometimes forget to stop and experience the moment. Except for when I take a picture.

At The Saltwater Retreat, I took my first sunrise and sunset photographs. I worried that the pictures I might take wouldn’t do justice to the magnificent subject, and letting go of that worry was hard. I wished I had read some how-to articles. But then I looked through the viewfinder at the kaleidoscope of colors, and took a deep breath, pressed the shutter and locked the view in my memory.

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