Sun Pillar and the Olympics, Seattle, Washington

Sun Pillar and the Olympics, Seattle, Washington

This is the first evening in my year in a half in Seattle when I found the tie to stop at Carkeek Park, along the Puget Sound coast. I arrived just as the sun was setting, and was initially somewhat disappointed to have missed some very nice light.

I stayed around to take in what I could of the park as the light quickly faded, while noticing that at the point where the sun had set behind the Olympic Mountain range to the west the sun was lighting up a column of sky in a way I'd never really seen before. It turns out the phenomenon is known as a sun or light pillar and is caused by falling ice crystals, with surfaces parallel to the horizon (creating the uniquely vertical beam of light). I have seen similar pillars lower in the sky from city lights on very cold winter nights, but never from the setting sun, and on such a warm day.

I tried shooting this a few different ways, but ultimately just wanted to catch the strange contrast in the sky, and the sharp lines (hidden, more often than not) of the beautiful Olympic Range. I chose a focal length that emphasized just the sun pillar, and the twin peaks, known as "The Brothers" (the highest points in the frame) rather than try to show the whole length of it. I added a 2 stop hard-edged neutral density filter to let more light hit the sound, and a 2 stop soft-edged filter to further darken the top of the frame.

Nikon D90 | Nikon 18-200VR@95mm | f/8 | 1/13s | ISO200 | Tripod

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