Sunset and Lightning
Bryce Canyon National Park
28 Sept. 2000


One of the fascinations of being at Bryce Canyon is to watch the color shift of all the brilliant red, white, and brown rock formations during the changing light. Of course, sunrise and sunset are the best times for this, the changes being the most dramatic.

However, on our first full day at Bryce this year, thunderstorms, rain, and hail minimized the viewing opportunities of Sue and me. In the early afternoon, then, we drove to Ruby's Inn, which is just outside the park. Above and beyond its wonderful restaurant, the inn also has an excellent store, with extensive groceries, clothing, and everything else one may desire. I bought a lightweight tripod.

Back on the canyon rim at Bryce, during sunset, I put a wide-angle lens on the camcorder, attached the camcorder to the tripod, pointed it across the canyon to yet another line of thunderstorms in the distance, and let it record for a half hour. The following stills are taken from that sequence.

The first still could be called "peak sunset" (with the sun setting in the opposite direction of the viewpoint): clouds, formations, everything, bathed in an intense red. The two lightning strokes are a composite image, about a sixtieth of a second apart. To the eye, they looked simultaneous.

Bryce lightning, reds

The second image followed several minutes later. The sun is low enough or past the actual sunset, so that the clouds assume a deep violet color. The canyon formations assume their natural reddish hues.

I had previously assumed that lightning follows a downward direction, but I saw enough horizontal lightning strokes that evening to realize that lightning does not have a predictable direction. This particular stroke formed a semicircle: a smile.

Bryce lightning, purples

At the time of the third image, below, another part of the storm caught up with us, it began to drizzle, but before closing shop, I switched to a moderate telephoto.

After the sun has "officially" set, the sky becomes more blue and monotone, whereas there is enough indirect light to softly illumuniate the rock formations. It's a true but very pale coloration. As the night progresses, color is lost and everything assumes shades of gray.

Lasting altogether a twentieth of a second, the lightning strokes in the still are another composite. First came a pitchfork-shaped stroke, followed immediately by the stronger L-shaped stroke.

Bryce lightning, after sunset

We returned to our log cabin for the night, one of the thirty or so cabins within Bryce, a very convenient and comfortable way of staying in the park!  

Bryce Canyon: Fairyland Castle   |   By moonlight   |   Trees

Zion National Park   |   Petrified Forest National Park

Dinosaur National Monument   |   Contact
Look Out!