I wrote this a few years ago and thought I would post it in this forum to share what photography really means to me..Or maybe I’m just re-reading and posting to keep myself reminded what photography should mean to me and what the true rewards are.
Sunset for Allison:
My legs were somewhat sore from a rather ambitiously paced 13 mile run earlier in the day. The couch felt so good as I propped them up and settled to watch the MLB playoffs and curse the Yankees even before the first pitch was thrown. I was in no hurry to go anywhere fast.. The late afternoon is also the favorite time in my house as the low sun glows through the front windows and throws long golden rays of warmth across the wood floor and catching all the glitters from miscellaneous shiny object in its way. It’s the warmest my house is all day from ambient light and the living room is my favorite place to be.
Something though (probably my shutter release finger) kept telling me to keep a watchful eye on the sky as there may be a special sunset due to light cloud cover. I also had some other things on my mind and the beach at night is a good place to see them for what they are worth a little clearer. As the sun sank and the streaks of filtered light crawled deeper in to the dining room I began to get real fidgety. My legs were happily off the ground but the rest of me was unsettled…I said screw it, “it’s only aYankees game” and grabbed my camera and hoped in the car. Besides I knew it would be my last chance to catch the ocean sunset before my trip to the Netherlands the next day.
There are a few places I like to go to shoot pictures of the sunset here in the South Bay, but for some reason, also beyond me I took a drive through a never ending stream of stop lights and signs to get to South Redondo vs the straight shot I had to Manhattan Beach Pier…I also parked up on the ocean side of Catalina Ave. and the only significance there was that just on the other side of the street it was free parking and I would not have needed to dump several quarters in the meter for the time I would need.. For some reason tonight I could not be bothered with the few extra steps even though the shots I wanted were down the long set of stairs and down the beach a way.
The air was clear and there were enough low clouds to give me the colors I look for on the really good nights for shots that are a bit more than special. I was able to corral a few images I liked down below at ocean level and the melted into the horizon. A sailboat even gave me the prototypical sailboat in the sun shot. I decided to head back up top to watch the glow change the colors from a higher perspective and shoot until the light was gone.
After the sky was relegated to the very last whispers of red veins across an otherwise lifeless sky, I began to slowly walk to my car. It was at this time a car pulled up behind me. There was a woman driving and she looked panicked and began to ask me something through a half opened window. She proceeded to park right where I was walking so I stuck my head in the window as I could not hear her, but could see that she was visibly upset. There were no tears, but there was something wrong.
She asked if I had seen the sunset and took pictures of it. She proceeded to tell me how she had tried to get down here on time but just couldn’t make it. I slowed her down and told her I had her covered and that I got a few decent shots. She went onto tell me that I must think she’s really strange and I told her she had no idea who I have in my life already and that strange is a relative term. She half smiled and went on to tell me that her daughter’s favorite thing was the sunset at the beach.
A chill went down my spine as the word “was” the only one that suddenly mattered here.
She proceeded to tell me “today’s her birthday” and she died seven months ago. If there was anyway I could send her a few shots…. I stopped her mid sentence and told her she could have all of them if she wanted and that I’d send them to her before I left for Europe in a low-res format and the hi-res images would be ready for her when I got back on a disk.
She continued to thank me and I had to almost stop her again so I could thank her. However exactly it was I got to this exact spot to be available for her, was truly an honor and the reason life keeps me feeling like there is so much more going on than we know.
Photography has already given me so many gifts back that I can never truly put into words. To be able to help memorialize a person I have never met and help keep Allison’s spirit alive in this way is the truly the pinnacle for me. To whatever degree I make it as a photographer in my life, I am pretty sure the few simple shots I took tonight will be the ones I am most thankful for.
As she drove away, I walked up the car and took one last look at the sky…There was one last streak of orange all alone across the horizon
Call me crazy, but I couldn’t help but wonder….
It was not the most spectacular sunset I have ever photographed, but it was definitely the most important and special ones to me.