NATURE’S LIGHTING MASTERCLASS | Darrin Henry
There’s something completely irresistible about photographing the St Helena sunset. Almost anywhere along the north-western side of the island is a perfect front row seat to see the sun retreating down to the vast South Atlantic Ocean.
It never gets old. And, just like everyone else, we are always tempted into getting out the camera.
That half an hour of rapidly changing colours is mesmerising. Like mother nature is playing around with giant dimmer switches just to see what ridiculous combinations she can come up with.
Why is the sky blue?
And why are sunsets orange?
Apparently it’s to do with something called the ‘scattering’ effect. Different colours of light waves travel from the sun, across space, to earth. These light waves are of different wavelengths depending on their colour.
We’re talking minuscule measurements, less than a millionth of a metre, for these light waves.
Once light enters the earth’s atmosphere it collides with molecules and small particles causing scattering. Shorter wavelengths (blue and violet) scatter more easily. Longer wavelengths (red, orange and yellow) are less affected and continue on.
When the sun is at a low angle – sunrise and sunset – the light has to travel through more of the atmosphere and scattering is increased on blue and violet wavelengths. This explains the increased red and orange glow at sunset.
Photographing the St Helena Sunset
In certain big cities around the world, the air pollution is so bad that residents are unlikely to see a beautiful sunset clearly. Just a glowing haze, sadly.
Here on St Helena, no such problems. Our pollution-free skies mean a fantastic St Helena sunset is threatened only by cloud cover, which unfortunately is more likely this time of year. The southern hemisphere winter is just beginning.
But, even as Sharon and I are digging out the fleece jackets and swapping shorts for longs, we still keep a lookout for a clear end to the day. A breath-taking sunset can happen in any month of the year.
Here is a selection of 12 different ways that we’ve photographed the St Helena sunset.
The St Helena sunset view from our house in Alarm Forest. We have dozens of pictures to choose from of spectacular sunsets from this spot, as you can imagine. The distinctive landscape profile of High Knoll Fort (to the left) and James Valley down to the bottom right. Month of May.
A beautiful June evening on St Helena at Longwood Green. The late light has youngsters out enjoying a game of football until it is almost dark. Good times for sure.
The steep valley sides make it difficult to see the setting sun directly from most places inside Jamestown. But the fading light in the sky still makes an interesting purple coloured backdrop as the day is about to be overtaken by night. Photography: Month of April.
St Helena sunset on the harbour. The ‘Wideawake’ boat doing its final rounds of the anchorage after a long day working ship. Photography: Month of March.
Longwood Gate and a lone aloe tree silhouette as the sun dips below the horizon. Photography: Month of June.
Another instantly recognisable St Helena sunset silhouette. There are more than 10,000 gumwood trees planted within the 18-year-old Millennium Forest which is located just off the airport road below Bottomwoods, Longwood. Photography: Month of September.
A special St Helena sunset for the final night the RMS St Helena lay at anchor in James Bay, 9 February 2018. Couldn’t have asked for a better last night memory.
Plenty of cloud in the sky but broken enough to give us an amazing St Helena sunset from the old guns at Ladder Hill. Photography: Month of August.
Plenty of ‘scattering’ going on here. Visiting yachts on the moorings off Jamestown harbour, St Helena. Photography: Month of April.
Front porch of Longwood House catches a St Helena sunset as the French Tricolore flutters in the breeze. Napoleon himself might well have been taking in a similar view, 200 years ago. Photography: Month of June.
The district of Half Tree Hollow is probably the best place to live on St Helena for sunset views. This is the Half Tree Hollow community centre at dusk. Photography: Month of February.
No better way to connect with a St Helena sunset than taking a tent and going camping. Luckily a clear and dry night was ahead of us in Thompson’s Wood when we took this. Photography: Month of December