Susquehanna River, facing East from the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge,
5:03 PM, February 13, 2009
The river looked very different from the last time I took photos of it, eight days ago (here, and here, and here.) The ice was gone from the Northern bank, mostly, though great chunks were flowing out of the East. No shadows of the bridge could be seen, but I wasn't here for shadows. I was here for the sunset. And...well, one shadow. One big shadow.
Canada Geese were in attendance. Quite a few of them flew directly over my head, always traveling from West to East - upriver. Here is a small flock I managed to photograph deliberately at 5:10 PM.
More often, the geese intruded serendipitously into my photos when I had already set the timer. (I was using the self-timer to avoid any camera shake when I pressed the button, which I fear is possible even with my tripod. With the low light levels at sunset, the shutter was staying open long enough for this to be a concern. Unfortunately, this meant that each photo was taken only after a ten second countdown. I wonder if there is a way of shortening that?)
One thing that always bugged me was the fact that I couldn't see the wind turbines at the Bear Creek wind farm from this bridge, even though I knew they were there. They are easily visible from the John S. Fine bridge, about a mile to the East (visible on the right in the image above), and are only twelve or so miles away, on the highest elevation in the area. And then at 5:15 PM, as the sun set and the Eastern horizon began to dim, the white pillars of the windmills (and let's call them windmills, okay, not "wind turbines") suddenly lit up! Can you see them in the image above?
How about here? This is an expanded view of the center part of the previous image, which is itself an optical zoom of the region seen to the left of center in the image before that.
I was able to get quite a few shots of the reflections of the trees along the Southern bank, looking towards Nanticoke. This one was taken at 5:22 PM.
And now, the big show begins. At 5:33 PM the Eastern horizon glows with the countertwilight in shades of orange and pink and purple, reflected in the river below. Sadly, the rest of the day the Eastern horizon is almost always a faint yellowish-brown these days, as is visible in the first image above. The line of sight in these images, if extended out for two hundred miles, grazes the northeastern tip of Manhattan Island.
At 5:37 PM. the shadow of the Earth is clearly visible. Most people have seen this without knowing what they are seeing. It's always fun to point it out to someone for the first time.
At 5:45 PM, as the sun sets farther and farther below the Western horizon, the shadow of the Earth climbs higher and higher above the Eastern horizon. Under certain circumstances of clouds and humidity, the rising shadow can be attended by dark "shadow rays" that have actually extended across the sky, giving the impression of a dark sun rising.
I have only included images of the Eastern sky because the Western sky seemed uniformly uninteresting this evening. But according to M.G.J. Minnaert's Light and Color in the Outdoors, section 219, "Twilight colors", there were actually a broad range of subtle and beautiful phenomena that I missed by focusing my attention entirely in one direction. In my defense, a steel truss bridge is probably not the ideal spot for all-sky viewing!