April 4th, 2012

04 Apr

Still burning in the afterglow….

By Silver Blue

There exists a photographic phenomenon call various things: “False Sunset”, “Lingering Sunset” or simply “Afterglow.”

What is it? Well, as it was described to me: you have your typical sunset. For 90 minutes, or so, after the sunset the energy of the sun still is in the sky — though you’re eyes can’t perceive it, your digital camera is able to.

Point your digital camera in the direction of the night sky where the sunset happened (and you see a black sky, or perhaps starlit), and take a photo. You’d expect to get a nice, star studded sky, yes? Well….not quite. You get:

Notice I picked up the green of a mercury vapor light, and the yellow of a sodium vapor light, but…what’s up with that “black” sky? It doesn’t look so “black” anymore.

In fact, it looks to be sunset. But … it’s not. Sunset happened at 7:39pm. This photo was taken at 8:19pm. A full 40 minutes after the sun slipped under the horizon.

Now, the neat thing about a False Sunset, Lingering Sunset, or Afterglow is that if you rotate yourself a full 180 degrees and shoot in the OPPOSITE direction from the sunset, you get the black sky you’re expecting.

(Just for giggles and grins, I photographed the same scene at 4:35 in the morning when I had to let the dogs out. Behold. Black sky.)

Mind you, I could have messed with the contrast and made the sky a complete pitch black, but that’s not what I was going for. I live in the city, we have light pollution. Ergo, the sky will actually appear as a medium to dark grey, unlike if you’re in the countryside, away from cities and towns, and can get the true black sky captured. (Plus, I don’t have my tripod over here, so it makes it a bit harder to steady the camera, and that’s why the top photo is somewhat out of focus.

I look forward to playing with this phenomenon more in the future.


Silver Blue, who sings along, “If you could see me now, just living my life in limbo…still burning in the afterglow…”

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