Sunbeams


30Sept2015

I travel back and forth between the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina quite a bit. My navigation system assures me the drive should be only a bit over an hour, but I have never achieved that pace. I blame it on the scenic overlooks beckoning me to pull over if I notice anything of potential photographic interest, which generally happens about every other minute. Fortunately the overlooks are more widely spaced than this, or I would probably spend much of my life on the interstate!

Near sunset I saw some sunbeams. These form when mountains or clouds block the sun, and are only visible when there is haze or dust in the atmosphere to scatter the sunlight toward the earth. These beams of light seem to fan out from the setting sun, but are actually almost parallel. I saw a NASA photo taken from space looking down on these sunbeams and the lines stretched almost straight. Because the sun is a large light source, the shadows taper the further they are toward the earth, which is my usual vantage point. It is similar to the lines of a straight road converging in the distance. There isn’t much opportunity for me to see that on my drive that twists and turns through the mountains, but I use my imagination.

It is fascinating to learn more about what forces shape the light I depend on for my photography. But I also just enjoy watching the sunbeams play across the mountains, the rays shifting and darting almost as if they were chasing each other across the distant peaks.