Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lost Horizon not always lost

with 20 comments

When the day number was most recently twice the month number, I stationed myself late in the afternoon at a place with a good vista along Lost Horizon Drive in our Great Hills neighborhood and waited for what I hoped would be a colorful sundown. Most of the sky stayed clear, however, which doesn’t make for good sunsets, so I decided to use a long lens to get close looks at the layers of wispy clouds close to the horizon. Zooming in like that to magnify the relatively small band of colorful clouds gave the resulting photographs a lot more drama than a person standing there would have perceived in the scene as a whole; call it not poetic license but photographer’s license.

Thanks to the orientation of the horizon, sunset pictures are usually horizontal, so for variety I experimented with a few vertical takes like the one below that came four minutes after the one above. The second picture excludes the horizon and is therefore also more abstract.


☸︎        ☸︎        ☸︎


With regard to the current pandemic, an article from Our World in Data clears up the confusion that some or maybe even many people have about the risk of dying from Covid-19. The easy-to-follow article distinguishes between, and offers simple numerical examples of, three ways to estimate or determine that risk: the case fatality rate, the crude mortality rate, and the infection fatality rate. I wrote “estimate or determine” because only the infection fatality rate is the number we really want to determine. The case fatality rate (which is often reported in the media), like the crude mortality rate, likely misses the true value by a wide margin.


That website’s About page also offers the following insights:


To work towards a better future, we also need to understand how and why the world is changing.

The historical data and research shows that it is possible to change the world. Historical research shows that until a few generations ago around half of all newborns died as children. Since then the health of children has rapidly improved around the world and life expectancy has doubled in all regions. Progress is possible. 

In other important ways global living conditions have improved as well. While we believe this is one of the most important facts to know about the world we live in, it is known by surprisingly few. 

Instead, many believe that global living conditions are stagnating or getting worse and much of the news media’s reporting is doing little to challenge this perception. It is wrong to believe that one can understand the world by following the news alone and the media’s focus on single events and things that go wrong can mean that well-intentioned people who want to contribute to positive change become overwhelmed, hopeless, cynical and in the worst cases give up on their ideals. Much of our effort throughout these years has been dedicated to countering this threat.

Researching how it was possible to make progress against large problems in the past allows us to learn. Progress is possible, but it is not a given. If we want to know how to reduce suffering and tackle the world’s problems we should learn from what was successful in the past.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2021 at 4:38 AM

20 Responses

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  1. The second image is my favourite. To me it is both mysterious and serene.


    December 8, 2021 at 5:05 AM

    • Any time a photographer manages to convey mystery and serenity in the same photograph counts as a success.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 7:55 AM

  2. The second image is my favorite too. I like the ethereal quality of it.


    December 8, 2021 at 7:47 AM

  3. I can think of several reasons to include the actual horizon in the first photo, including the fact that the dark land is echoed in the dark cloud streaks above. Still, I find myself preferring the second photo, which also suggests a horizon. The dark clouds at the bottom look to me like hills rising above a fog-filled valley, with a river of clouds above.


    December 8, 2021 at 8:17 AM

    • You’re the third consecutive commenter to prefer the second view. In addition to the reasons you gave, do you think any of that preference is attributable to the relative rarity of vertical sunset pictures that I mentioned?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 9:23 AM

      • I’m not sure. It didn’t occur to me that vertical sunset photos wouldn’t be common. I took at look at my files, and found that a full third of mine are vertical. Sometimes I went vertical because of cloud formations; I think we get far more single clouds that build vertically than you do, particularly in mid-summer. Sometimes, I chose vertical because of another element in the photo, like a lighthouse.

        For me, the dark land at the bottom of the first photo feels a little intrusive. Or, to put it another way, it kept pulling my eye to the bottom of the image, making me less attentive to the sky. Without that dark band, I experience both photos as equally appealing.


        December 9, 2021 at 7:56 PM

        • In the spirit of empiricism, I just did a Google Images search for sunsets and found that almost all of the hits were horizontal. I tried the same search with Bing and got the same result. It’s interesting that a full third of your sunset pictures are vertical. As you said, that may well be due to a greater prevalence of heaped-up clouds near the coast, and you’ve surely got more lighthouses there than we do here.

          I remember in a previous sunset post you mentioned that you found the strip of dark land at the bottom distracting. I think last time I spoke about that strip serving to ground the image. Still, I’m also happy with the more-abstract image that results from cropping off that strip.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 9, 2021 at 10:22 PM

  4. I would describe your sunset photo and its variation as a river of light.

    Peter Klopp

    December 8, 2021 at 9:10 AM

  5. I love the gold and caramel colors in both of your images. Our sunsets are more pink or orange in color lately. And thank you for providing the link to Our World in Data. I’ve already forwarded it to a friend this morning.


    December 8, 2021 at 10:27 AM

    • I’m happy to hear you linked the link (like loop the loop). You may well be the first commenter to ever use the word “caramel” here. You know what they say: If the caramel fits, enjoy it. We sometimes get pink in our sunrises and sunsets but I’d say orange is much more common.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 1:27 PM

  6. I love the abstract nature of the second image – very pleasing to look at! 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    December 8, 2021 at 1:29 PM

  7. You focused on the most interesting part … well done! I use my longer lenses a lot for that very reason … and especially with sunsets/sunrises.


    December 8, 2021 at 5:21 PM

    • From what you say, we’re in zoomful agreement. For these two views I went to 340mm and 400mm, respectively.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 5:36 PM

  8. The second shot reminds me a little of the newer images of Jupiter’s “eye”.

    Steve Gingold

    December 12, 2021 at 4:48 AM

  9. Wonderful sky colours and glow …


    December 15, 2021 at 12:00 PM

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