Earth’s Shadow at Bryce Canyon

Have you ever looked EAST at sunset to observe the effects of the Earth’s shadow on the colors of the sky? Like most people, I think of looking WEST at sunset, when I am lucky enough to watch that big orange ball sink into the ocean. While I was in Utah to photograph Bryce Canyon in all its natural splendor — at sunrise, sunset, in sun and in snow — I had the opportunity to witness the effect of the Earth’s shadow on the sky at sunset. As the sun begins to set in the west, it continues to illuminate the part of the eastern sky that you see up high, while the curvature of the Earth blocks the lower part of the sky closer to the horizon. In the transition, you see a spectrum of color from yellow (high) to pink to blue (low) near the horizon. If you are lucky enough to find yourself away from air pollution, clouds, precipitation and city lights, you can look east and admire this effect every night. If your foreground happens to be a grand panorama, all the better. Here are two of my photographs of the Earth’s shadow at sunset from Bryce Point:

As I photographed sunrise in Bryce Canyon, we enjoyed the same effect. This location was Rainbow Point, my personal coldest photo shoot with 10 degrees and 25 mph wind. We worked the location for 20 minutes. Here, the sun has just cleared the horizon, rendering the hoodoos as a high contrast scene.

This photograph shows the predawn glow in the clouds, looking west (opposite sunrise) from Sunset Point. You see the same color effect, blue by the horizon. The scene was still rather dark. It would change dramatically in minutes.

Lastly, I shot straight into the sun at sunrise from Sunset Point, using a tiny aperture (f/16) to achieve a sunstar effect with the camera lens.  The color pattern is reversed with yellow close to the horizon and blue above. The sunstar almost makes you want to squint, doesn’t it?

Author: cathykellyphotography

Independent photographer based in Pittsburgh PA and Naples FL. Nature, landscape and portrait photography. Portfolio includes international work in USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Email to review work in your area of interest. Nature portfolio includes flowers and wildlife. Prints and digital files for sale. See website:

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