This morning I woke up to a sight I’ve never seen before: the sun sparkling from windows on Point Loma, on the far side San Diego Bay, reflecting a fiery shimmer across the water.
Still half-asleep, I grabbed the nearest camera and my 70-200 f/4 L lens, snapped a shot, and went back to sleep.
Later I wondered, why have I never seen this before? (All right, smart aleck, I’ll admit it’s true that I’m rarely up at the crack of dawn.)
But there’s a more fundamental reason. It hasn’t happened before.
I’ve lived in my current apartment for less than a year, and this is the first day the sun has aligned with those windows across the bay to bounce light back in this direction. (Actually, it may have happened exactly 6 months ago, but that day either it was cloudy, or I was asleep.)
Of course, this phenomenon should come as no surprise to me.
Because I know that twice a year, you can stand at exactly that fiery spot on point Loma, at sunset, and take brilliant photos of the city’s buildings reflecting sunlight across the bay.
That photo opportunity is the mirror image of the one I saw from my windows this morning.
And it happens exactly twice a year. It’s so well-known that it even appears in photography guidebooks about the area. And on those magical days you’ll find dozens of photographers setting up tripods and long lenses on the sleepy streets of Point Loma.
And I have even been one of those photographers in the past.
The shot nearby was taken from Point Loma last fall, during that brief span of time when the sun strikes perpendicular to the city’s streets and makes dazzling light on the buildings downtown.
What lesson is there in this for us photographers?
We’re all quite good at remembering to take advantage of the changing light over the course of a day. We know there are magic moments at sunrise and sunset, and we often build our schedules around them.
But how often do we forget that the angle of the light is different every single day of the year?
The light you saw yesterday will not be the light you see tomorrow.
Things in your neighborhood, or even your own back yard, may look today as you’ve never seen them before.
So get out there and shoot.