Clouds afire

Returning to Stockton from an assignment to shoot snow in Bear Valley, I was driving on Highway 4 toward a pretty sunset. Usually the most brilliant colors of a sunset are in the direction of the sun as it slips past the horizon. But I glanced to the northeast and saw that the colors that day were bordering on other-worldly.

I knew I didn’t have much time since these off-axis hues fade quickly. I remembered a spot just west of Copperopolis where I could make a good photo (using one of the “rules of photography” that my college photo instructor taught me: “always have a foreground”). There was a picturesque outbuilding and windmill at Telegraph Court and Highway 4. I knew I was running out of time. So when I got there I literally jumped out of the car (engine still running and door left open) and got the shot. In about five minutes it was gone. The light had faded, and the clouds that had been so intense were now a dull brown.


A lot of what we do for The Record are “stand alone” photos (Also called “wild art or “enterprise” photos in the newspaper jargon). Occasionally they’re assigned by the city desk, but mostly they’re found situations, like this one. Sometimes they take skill and experience, other times they take some luck and maybe a lead foot.

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