Magic Clouds

SR126 at Sunset from Thomas Gapen on Vimeo.

It was otherworldly.

Mystical. Magical. Miraculous.

It was magnificent.

Maybe it was the combination of exactly the right amount of Irish whiskey and a single puff of “cloud.”

Maybe it was simply the clouds.

But in the very, early evening last night Linda and I were drinking on the patio and contemplating how we would spend the rest of the night. The week had ended a blistering, five-day-long hot spell that was transitioning into a weekend like we rarely see in Southern California.

A week that had seen days reaching 113 degree temperatures had become mid-90s with extremely high humidity and skies full of a mixture of cumulous and cumulonimbus clouds, that were being painted with a color pallet only mother nature could invent, every night as the sun sank below the horizon.

We’d seen this coming. Just the day before every photographer and non-photographer I know was posting spectacular sunset photos on their Facebook pages. Linda had described to me how the atmosphere in our backyard had turned into Maxfield Parrish painting, a hazy, pink wonderland.

L.A. photographer Gene Blevins had nailed an image that showed a double rainbow and a bolt of lightening in front of the Hollywood sign as a helicopter flew past.

Jaysus! I wanted to ask him, “Gene, couldn’t you have gotten a brushfire and a mudslide in that shot?”

So as the sun began its final descent bringing an end to the first day of October, the wind suddenly started to pick up and the temperature dropped noticeably. As dark, black storm clouds began to gather in the east, the cumulus clouds riding the winds in the west took on a golden, rim-light turning them into giant, cartoon thought bubbles. A few drops of rain sailed by as the wind chimes in our yard sang loudly.

We decided to attempt to capture, with cameras, what we knew would be another glorious nightfall as the setting sun spilled grenadine and pineapple juice across its own sheets and pillows … and then grab a pizza.

We started, and ended, at the usual place. At the end of a cul-de-sac, across the street from our house is a spot where from the top of the ridge you can see nearly all of the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s a place we not-so-cleverly call “The Spot.” It’s where we go to watch multiple fireworks shows on the Fourth of July. It’s where we go for sunsets. And because that’s where we always go, we have more than enough photos from there.

So we headed down to Castaic Junction.

A place where old State Route 126, formerly a two-lane road, passes through rows of eucalyptus and California oaks. It seemed to me that the failing light spilling across the trunks and the bark of those old trees, in combination with the spectacular clouds and setting sun, would make for some pretty landscapes.

We weren’t going to win any prizes but we just like taking photos and sometimes we do it for that reason alone.

But we arrived too late. The sun had already sank below the hills on the horizon and so there would be no direct light to play with. All we were left with was the ever changing ambient light in the sky.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

After the most of the best light was gone we drove to Ameci’s, picked up a pie and went back to The Spot.

We stood there, looking down on the Santa Clarita Valley, as the sky faded to black. The wind had completely died and there was no longer even a puff of breeze. We could see the lights from Valencia High School stadium, a few miles away, as West Ranch was about to take on undefeated St. Francis. A searchlight from the school swept the sky like a laser beam, beckoning.

We looked down on suburbia, every house in perfect, little rows with all the lights on. We could hear jack russells and chihuahuas yelping. We could hear families talking and laughing. We could hear kids splashing in swimming pools both close by and miles away. Bolts of lightening were crackling far off in the west. The air was crystal clear and dead still.

John Mellencamp was playing in my head.

Just then, we heard then felt, then saw the elegant wings of an adult owl as he flew past just a few feet over our heads, heading southwest, maybe to watch the game at Valencia High.

Linda and I looked at each and said the thing we often say to each other at times like these, without actually saying it at all.

Although our lips didn’t move and no sound was made, we said this to each other, “These are the days.”

It was magnificent.

This entry was posted in Main stuff by admin. Bookmark the permalink.

About admin

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, writer and Photoshopper and arguably, a guitar player now living in the Pacific Northwest. My wife is amazing. We have two cats, no kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and a Gibson ES-335.

Leave a Reply