The parched Bay Area is grateful, heading into America’s day of Thanksgiving, for any rain we can get. It was coming; the weather folks said so, the doppler radar said so. But for a couple of hours after the storm was expected to start on Tuesday morning, it was all expectation and no precipitation. Birds sensed it, fall leaves tossed in sudden wind, clouds gathered, but … nothing. It finally did rain, for a bit, and temperatures dropped, but now we’re facing a weekend of crisp winter sun. For a moment before the clouds opened, though, the skies played with a dramatic duality: the dark stormy look that tradition defines as “threatening,” and a shard of rainbow to remind us that the threat, in a period of drought, is also a promise.
There’s a strange problem with my camera: when I take off its lens cap, my watch stops working. So when time is short, I practice tough love and leave the camera at home. Which was exactly where it sat this past Saturday when I emerged from a video store into one of the more spectacular and complex sunsets of my life.
Though it’s hard to resist entirely, I am not a big one for photographing sunsets. But Saturday evening’s show had such a variety of clouds and colors, and was displayed in such 360 degree splendor, that I would ideally have been on nearby Moraga Hill with my favorite lenses, harvesting one image after another of San Francisco dressed in blues, aquas, reds, pinks, and oranges. Adding to the drama were the sudden shafts of sunlight searing through cloud breaks to strike random, briefly-blessed spots of architecture. All around me on the crowded Inner Sunset streets, people were taking it in. I passed a woman who was mentioning Maxfield Parrish, and we exchanged smiles.
Alas, dinner was getting ready for the table, and at any rate, by the time I raced home and snatched the camera the world might have slipped into gray twilight. So I pulled out my cell phone. Mind you, this is not one of today’s amazing megapixel monsters. Even when new, two years ago, my phone wasn’t really smart, and its camera captures images sized at a whopping two, count ’em, TWO megapixels. But there’s a saying familiar to most photographers that goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” So here’s some of the images I got with Saturday evening’s best camera, and what I was able to do with them.
As Stephen Stills once sang, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.