The photo above showing a magnificent early autumn sunset was taken at Lake Loma, near Marysville, Washington on September 24, 2010. When I first noticed this sunset I was in my front yard. As the impact of the colors started to sink in, I grabbed my camera and then loped over to the lake’s boat launch to snap this shot. Photographer: Robert Farrimond
It seems that often the camera doesn’t record what you’re actually seeing but fortunately, this wasn’t one of those times.
The formula for the most vibrant sunsets and sunrises does not include an expression for clear skies. When the sky is as clear as a bell as the Sun is setting, the western sky is in fact not very remarkable at all.
To get the best colors, there must be something in the sky to scatter and reflect sunlight. On this evening, it was clouds at different heights. Even without clouds, certain aerosols and particulates (including smoke, soot and ash) may produce fine color too.
The upper and most colorful cloud layer on this photo is composed of cirrus clouds. These are high enough to capture fiery color though at the surface the Sun had already set several minutes earlier. Clouds carrying less and less color are seen lower and lower in the sky. Accent these lower clouds with a few odd holes, add in some silhouetted conifers plus a rippled lake that reflects the sunset and conifers, then place some floating vegetation and reeds in the foreground, and voila – your masterpiece is complete.