Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Going for sunset over a third Great Lake

with 29 comments

On July 27 we found ourselves seated for supper at a sidewalk table belonging to the Red Fern vegan restaurant in Rochester, New York. Near the end of the meal I told our waitress about the dramatic sunset we’d seen over Lake Erie the night before and asked her if she knew a place where we might catch a good sunset over Lake Ontario. She said that she did indeed, and that Google Maps shows it as Ontario Lake View in Webster, New York. Sure enough, my phone’s Google Maps pulled it up, and thither we repaired after our meal to wait out the sunset—in the company, as it turned out, of quite a few other people who also knew about the spot. The first thing that grabbed my photographic attention was the way the near-sunset light lit up the trees at the edge of Mill Creek where it becomes a long a pond as it reaches Lake Ontario.

After I finished taking pictures of those warmly illuminated trees I walked a short distance to focus on Lake Ontario. I couldn’t help noticing a small, mostly bare tree that the water had inundated, and I photographed it some three dozen times in various compositions while the sun sank lower and lower. At one point a duck that swam by added a welcome touch:

As for the sunset, well, it never got super dramatic the way it had the previous evening at Lake Erie.
That was still all right, and I came away content with the pictures I did manage to get.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 15, 2019 at 4:35 AM

29 Responses

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  1. oh, I love the final result here. it is magnificent in its own way


    September 15, 2019 at 4:57 AM

  2. I love what you said in the last comment, “I came to appreciate it for what it was rather than what I’d hoped it would be.” So many times we are focused on what we hope for in an experience, that we miss the beauty of that moment. What a pleasant surprise that the duck showed up! I’m always amazed at how within a minute’s time during sunrise or sunset, that the light changes dramatically! These are lovely images, Steve.


    September 15, 2019 at 6:58 AM

    • Thanks, Lori. Sometimes things really don’t pan out, and then I’ll confess I find it hard or impossible to come away content. It was easy to find things to like in this subtler sunset. I consider the illuminated trees along the creek to be especially nice, intrinsically and also because I rarely get to photograph a scene like that. And yes, the light can change a lot in a short time during sunrises and sunsets.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2019 at 7:12 AM

  3. I especially like the second photo. It may not have been as dramatic as other sunsets, but it’s an inviting image: one that’s as placid as the water, and easy to sink into. With the clouds, the rocks, and the duck all seeming to point in the same direction, there’s a nice sense of gentle movement, too.


    September 15, 2019 at 7:49 AM

    • Placid is a good word for it, especially as the Latin original initially meant ‘pleasing, pleasant.’ There is a pleasant convergence toward the right, isn’t there?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2019 at 8:55 AM

      • There certainly is. Beyond that, I suspect it could be harder to capture this kind of pleasant subtlety than the in-your-face drama of some landscapes. This is the sort of image that fits well with some words found earlier in a poem you’ve often quoted:

        The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
        The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
        Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
        ‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
        Push off, and sitting well in order smite
        The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
        To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
        Of all the western stars, until I die.


        September 15, 2019 at 9:27 AM

  4. They may be less dramatic but they are very beautiful. I like how you composed this, with the rocks lining up for a swim. I used to hang out at Illinois Beach State Park until sunset. I’d face east, because I loved the gentle gradations of color over the water as the fireworks went on behind me. I know, backward of me.

    Linda captured what I meant to say…this image is easy to sink into.


    September 15, 2019 at 8:38 AM

    • Like you, I’ve noticed over the years that sometimes the best scene to photograph is the one that’s opposite to where the sun is setting. Aren’t we the contrarians? Sometimes if I’ve waited long enough I’ve gotten good things in first one direction and then the other. I don’t recall getting a great sunset at Illinois Beach State Park; if I discover that I did, I’ll amend this comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2019 at 9:34 AM

      • One evening coming home from IBSP I was at a stop sign. To my left was a big fat moon rising up in a pool of gorgeous blues-purples and to my right was the lingering remains of the sunset over a field of late season vegetation, a study in oranges. I could only keep swiveling my head, trying to take them both in at once!


        September 16, 2019 at 8:14 AM

        • That was a pleasant dilemma, literally, to have found yourself in. I hope it led to two paintings rather than one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 16, 2019 at 9:59 AM

          • Sorry to say, it led only to a happy, if bemused, memory.


            September 17, 2019 at 9:12 AM

            • Perhaps the memory isn’t so remote that you can’t still paint it.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 17, 2019 at 9:19 AM

              • If only you had been here. I know you would have captured both images beautifully.


                September 18, 2019 at 10:33 AM

  5. A serene scene with the string of rocks lined up in the lake, a small tree offering vertical contrast and a little duck enhancing the image! Well done, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    September 15, 2019 at 8:53 AM

    • Good analysis. I like the sound of “serene scene” (along with its meaning, of course).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2019 at 9:38 AM

  6. Striking transition of color layers on your last image.


    September 15, 2019 at 1:37 PM

  7. Love the sunset photo!!


    September 15, 2019 at 8:22 PM

  8. Very nice light in both cases.

    Steve Gingold

    September 17, 2019 at 5:01 AM

    • Other than for sunsets, I’m not often out taking pictures in the so-called golden hour. I couldn’t help immediately noticing and being attracted to the light in the first picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2019 at 8:21 AM

  9. I love the first photo of the tree lit up by the near sunset light. That’s a favourite light for me. It turns whatever it falls on startlingly beautiful.


    September 17, 2019 at 7:27 PM

    • I wholeheartedly agree: as soon as I saw what the late light did to those trees and their reflections I knew I’d found a great subject, and not at all what I’d gone there to look for. The unexpected can be the best.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2019 at 9:52 PM

  10. Ow two top shots Steve and so different! I think your sunset is a winner btw 😃


    September 21, 2019 at 1:14 AM

    • Yes, so different. Because I went there hoping for a sunset over the lake, the first picture came as a complete surprise to me. It was a most welcome one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 4:42 AM

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