the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Photo of the Sunset

I unfollowed everyone on Twitter, and then slowly re-followed everyone back. I brought the final divorce paperwork to the court, and then got it returned by mail because I was missing one of the forms. I grew a beard, and then sheared it off like the wool of a sheep, feeling the facial hair too hot to wear in the summer. My life is in constant flux.

Yesterday, I stood at the water’s edge and waited for the day to end. I had my iPhone in my hand. For years, I had made fun of the cliched photograph of the sun setting into the Pacific. But I wanted to try to capture it myself, just to see what made it so special.

As the afternoon shifted into evening, the sky above the Pacific was painted by nature’s brush in the bright color of a tangerine. A red-yellow neon shimmer took to the water, dancing with the waves. I started shooting, almost 200 photos in all, never stopping my thumb from clicking on the iPhone screen, except for that one brief moment when a buxom woman in a bikini passed by my view.

As evening turned to night, the sky turned into a rainbow of colors. At “photo 95” the sky darkened, and the atmosphere grew ominous, as if the world was going to end. At “photo 110” the vibrancy picked up, as if God was running his artistic creation through his own Instagram filter.

But I found the exact moment of sunset, the dipping of the life force into the horizon, a disappointment. I preferred the imagery when the sun was at a 45-degree angle and the blue of the sky was sprinkled with hot flames diffused by the clouds.

At the end of the night, when I looked over the photos, most of the shots were “nice,” except for the one or two shots where my finger got in the way of the lens. But none were perfect. Even my favorites of the bunch, “photo 61” and “photo 101” had flaws. When the ocean bristled with energy in one photo, the sky faded into the background. When the sky exploded with color in another photo, the sea darkened in the foreground. It was impossible to capture the momentum of the sunset in one shot. Maybe that is the ultimate challenge of it all. The event was one of movement, of flux, of time, the ebbing and flowing of the water, the shining and dimming of the light. Never static, like life.


  1. Heather

    I love this analogy so much, Neil. I’m going to take it with me, into all the sunsets. Thank you.

  2. kenju

    Well written; you captured it perfectly. The whole process must be seen to be appreciated.

  3. erykah

    I’m sure your photos are more beautful then you take credit for. Lovely post, so true.

  4. Marie Nicole

    When the thumb stopped clicking the sunset did it happen to click on the buxomish vixen? Be honest…

    You know what everybody says about divorces right? Happiest day in my life was when I said “I do” until my next happiest day in my life happened: when I signed my divorce papers. The sucky part of divorce is the more you get, the easier they happen…

  5. sweetsalty kate

    That’s so pretty, Neil.

  6. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    Life is always in flux. There are few perfect moments. The key is to be aware enough of what’s going on around you to notice those rare times when everything is just as you hoped and dreamed it would be and then be grateful for it even as you deal with knowing the moment will pass.

  7. Jana A (@jana0926)

    Wow. Captured perfectly. The beautiful sunset AND the thoughts behind it.

  8. DL Photography

    I’ve never really been one to try and capture a good sunset photo (although I do have a few lying around somewhere), but I definitely love having a quiet drink while watching them.

  9. sizzle

    Yes! This is so true.

  10. suzy

    Neil, I’m so happy you got chosen to speak at BlogHer 12 and only wish I could be there to hear it. You’re a great and funny writer so I wasn’t really surprised you were picked. Congratulations.

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