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Loren’s Travels

Thing of the Week #2: New Song – On the Beach

So…this week, I’m sharing a song that I started working on last month, but have only recently “finished” polishing and rewriting.

I’m fortunate enough to live ten minutes from a lovely beach. On one recent afternoon, I decided to head over there to take a walk and let the sounds of the surf mellow me out. Which I succeeded in doing, but along the way, I started hearing bits of a song chorus about the beach in my head, so I played with it and let it work itself out a bit. And then I started populating the rest of the song.

Some of the bits in the song come from that particular trip – for instance, I did see the “family in the water posing for a picture.” Other bits I had to add from other beach and recreation spots – Englewood Beach doesn’t have a food concession, for one thing, and there’s a rule about bringing alcohol there. But in the end, I think I created a rather nice beach that I hope to find and spend some time on, one of these days. With friends.

The song is titled “On the Beach,” and you can enjoy it here: https://youtu.be/aIdPvs0y_ak

Other than that, I’ve been working on two other songs that aren’t coalescing yet – each of them has about two pages’ worth of lyrics scribbled, but not organized in any coherent way. There’s also a possible short comedy skit on handling telemarketers, and I got a concept for something (and a cool title) that needs lots of fleshing out. Back to the drawing board!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Well, we survived 2017, or at least anyone reading this email did. Some folks didn’t, and while we’ll miss them, they will always be with us in our memories.

My year had its ups and downs. I got an album done and out. I played some shows here and there, all of which were fun. I spent time with friends old and new. I watched a total eclipse of the sun, and ran away from a category 5 hurricane. I went back to the Virgin Islands for the first time since I was in my teens.

Going into 2018, I’ve decided to challenge myself a bit and to put that challenge out there, whether I meet it or not. And what I’m going to do involves changing how I create and put things out into the world.

I’ve got a decent set of creative skills and creative tools. I take decent pictures, I can make good, entertaining videos, I write songs, and I have some clues on how to connect all of those things together. I just need to do more if it.

So here’s my commitment to me and to you. It’s not an original idea; artists like Jonathan Coulton have been here before. I’m committing to creating and delivering a new “thing” each and every week for 2018. It might be a new song. It might be a video of me doing a cover of someone else’s work. It might be an instrumental, a photo collage, a poem, or a video travelog of me somewhere. Or a video apology for not accomplishing what I promised that week. :) Because I’m going to be accountable to you as well as to myself.

What this will hopefully accomplish is to keep me from self-censoring as much, which may be keeping some worthwhile bits from getting the exposure they deserve. It’ll make me exercise my creative “muscles” more regularly. And maybe the more regular communication and creativity will bring us a bit closer together over time.

My commitment is to me, but I’m making myself accountable to you. I would like nothing better than to get so into this with you that if something doesn’t come out when it should, some of you will take the time to ask me about it, hold my feet to the fire to see how I’m keeping my commitments. If I screw up, I’ll be embarrassed. Maybe that’ll be enough to keep me from screwing up. It’s worth a shot.

My plan right now is to deliver my weekly “things” using my blog, which has been grossly underused, and then to let y’all know via these emails, Facebook, and other social media. If the increased frequency of messages from me (going to once a week) is too much for you, you’ll drop off, and that’s okay. Hopefully the new content will entice you to stay.

Here’s my first “thing of the week,” an a capella version of one of my favorite songs:

Loren sings “As Time Goes By”

I’ll still be doing shows – I have two scheduled already, and have been talking to folks about others. But that’s not going to be where I’m focused.

I hope you’ll be joining me on this new adventure!

Cleaning the Beach

Sand...and water

Sand…and water

I spent this morning helping pick up trash along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Except they don’t call it “picking up trash” anymore; they call it “habitat restoration.” Maybe it helped them get a grant; I don’t know. All I know is that it’s an occasion for me to combine two of my favorite pastimes, walking along a beach and helping out the Earth.

It’s kind of ironic that we spend 364 days a year messing up the place and one day a year cleaning up after ourselves. Whatever happened to always leaving a place cleaner than we found it? We are so disconnected from the Circle of Life…

One of the other things I get to do while out walking the beach is let my mind wander and play in the surroundings. Ocean Beach is a fairly large expanse of sand – acres and acres, most of it above the high tide line. It’s got dunes, older, established ones and newer ones just beginning to emerge from beneath people’s footprints. And out amidst all that sand, my mind starts to wander to places from fiction, like Arrakis and Tattooine. Which leads to some very strange thoughts:

“The Jundland wastes are not to be traveled lightly…”

“Wow…someone wearing the same shoes as me must have come through here already today. Looks like they carved their name into the same type of tree as me. Wait – they have the same name I do! What are the odds of that?”


In addition to the various stairways down to the sand, there’s one ramp. It doesn’t look like the park vehicles have been using it, and I have to wonder if it was put in just so folks in wheelchairs could make it down to the sand, where their wheels would get stuck and they could be sacrificed to Shai-Hulud.

(Meanwhile, another part of my brain envisions wheelchairs with big balloon tires that float on the sand, sort of like dune buggies for the mobility-challenged.)

I picked up about a bucket’s worth of old bags, wrappers, bottle caps, and a whole lot of cigarette butts. I don’t know what they make cigarette filters out of, but it’ll outlast the cockroaches.

It was an interesting juxtaposition of opposites: sand and water, sun/sky and clouds, beach and cold weather – it barely cracked 60 there, and it’s not even summertime yet. (Mark Twain was definitely right, assuming he ever did actually say that.)

I didn’t just do this alone; I was in the company of some of the folks from the Latitude 38 Parrothead Club. After a couple of hours of reducing the amount of human detritus out in the sand, we settled in for a fine lunch and conversation, “partying with a purpose.”

Here are a couple more pictures from my day. Enjoy!

IMG_3355 IMG_3362

And one picture from downstairs at the Beach Chalet, showing a Krakenesque stairway ornament I liked:


What did you do this weekend?



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On the Road, One More Time…


I just got back a few days ago from an amazing week in Florida. The trip combined beaches, good music, fun with friends, and new and exciting possibilities in an extremely good mix.

Picture of the Sauce Boss

The Sauce Boss, mixing blues and gumbo

The main attraction was a trop rock event called Music on the Bay (MOTB). No, I wasn’t playing at it, but that didn’t make it any less fun. I got to enjoy music by some of the best of my fellow trop rockers, including Sunny Jim White, the Trop Rock Junkies, Jimmy Parrish, Jack Mosley, Michael J Weiss, and the Sauce Boss, some of whom I hadn’t seen play before. If you weren’t there, you could have heard most of it broadcast live on Songwriter’s Island Radio – well worth checking out anyway! (They play my stuff too.)

Picture of the beach at Whiskey Joe's

The Beach at Whiskey Joe’s

The event was held at an amazingly beautiful place called Whiskey Joe’s, on the shores of Tampa Bay, site of the previous two MOTB’s, and of a memorable show of my own last year. They put up a new, bigger stage this year at the other end of the beach from the regular tiki stage. The main acts were at the new stage; they had songwriters playing shorter sets at the original stage. It was a good idea that worked very well for the bigger acts and the folks who watched them, not so well for the songwriters and the vendors who’d set up by the smaller stage. It was their first time doing this, and I guess they’ll make adjustments for next year.

They’ve got about ten palapa tables scattered around the beach near the tiki bar, which were auctioned off for charity. I got to park myself at one of those for the weekend by pitching in with a friend. Having that “home base” was very helpful to me, since I’d flown in from out of town and had none of the usual beach accessories with me. (I could have borrowed from friends, with some advance planning.) Thanks to my friend Diane Rutledge for sharing her space and company with me. Diane is a friend, a lover and supporter of this music we all do, and masterful behind the wheel of her Mustang.

Picture of back yard and Gulf view

Yes, you *can* see the Gulf from here!

Picture of the back gate to the beach

Gateway to the beach!

To save money, I stayed about an hour away, at the home of a couple of friends (Pablo & Diana) in Holmes Beach. To local lovers of trop rock music, it’s also known as the Sandbox, where I’ve also had the joy and honor of playing, a time or two. Tucked away half a block from the Gulf on Anna Maria Island, it’s a delightful oasis complete with pool, stage, beach chairs, dogs, and cats. When we weren’t up in Tampa, we all had a delightful and comfortable time. And you won’t find two nicer or more kindly and giving people than Pablo and Diana.

My view every morning

My view every morning

Walking the beach...

Walking the beach…

...I found some interesting shells and such!

…I found some interesting shells and such!

The best part of staying down there was that I could (and did) walk the beach every morning before heading up to Tampa. While I sing and write songs about beach life, I don’t get to live it half as often as I’d like. And there’s something about the sound of the surf that just releases all of my tension and calms my soul.

If more people started their day with a walk on the beach, I think this would be a much nicer world to walk around in.

The wildlife there was pretty active. I saw a couple of rays pop up out of the water, and dolphins swimming out beyond the surf break. I also saw pelicans aplenty, parrots, and even an osprey or two.

Picture of the beach near sunset

Sunset at the Beach

Picture of sunset

Watching the sun go down.

Best of all were the sunsets. I caught several of them up at Whiskey Joe’s, but also managed to watch one down on the island. Even without supporting clouds, it was spectacular.

In my “Copious Free Time,” as Tom Lehrer would say, I did some exploring, down through Sarasota to Englewood, including stops at a couple of beach bars, and wrote a silly new pirate song. Because I *could*. And I grew my knowledge of what’s what and where in that part of the world. I even found the local Trader Joe’s!

It was an amazing trip, during which I spent time with some equally amazing and wonderful people, whom I am truly privileged to have as friends. Thanks to each of my friends who enriched my week in some way, small or large – Diane, James, Victor, Gary, Cathy, Heather, Sue, Bryan, Effie, Michael, Millie, Koz, Terry, Batman & Jill, Rho, Gabrielle, and the rest of the waitstaff at Whiskey Joe’s, LaDonna, and of course Pablo & Diana! And to the many others whose names may be slipping my mind right now, but who are no less important to how beautifully it all turned out.

Part of what helped make it so much fun was that I treated it as an adventure, even the occasional setbacks and snafus. It’s magical, the way that my choices in the moment can help me either enjoy another beautiful day in Paradise or plunge me back into the world of traffic jams, inconsiderate people, and disturbing headlines. Yes, I still have to deal with the day-to-day world…but if I’m “in Paradise” in my head, it goes a lot more easily and I have a lot more fun at it. And sometimes, keeping my smile and “Paradise state of mind” when some narrow-visioned SOB is trying to piss me off is the sweetest kind of victory.

I won’t get back to Florida until May, but I’ve got pictures and memories to help me keep that “island state of mind” back here in the Bay Area. Not that I have a whole lot of trouble doing that most days, as we’ve got some pretty darned amazing scenery and people here too.

Picture of sunset by the Bay

Sunset by the Bay – beautiful sunsets are everywhere!

Cheers, and thanks for listening!



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Looking Back; Looking Ahead

Did you know that the month of January was named after the Roman god Janus? This guy had a second face on the back of his head, so he could look forward and backward at the same time.

Which is pretty much what I tend to do every year around this time, as Janus’ month approaches. And oh, what a wealth of memories lies in my past this year!

I started the year fresh off the release of my fifth album, “Of All the Rum Joints.”  Adding the songs on this album to my catalog and repertoire gave me even more depth and flexibility for playing entertaining shows.

And play I did. In 2013, I made about 40 appearances, playing house concerts, bars, yacht clubs, and Parrothead gatherings from coast to coast. I played shows in California, Minnesota, Iowa, and Florida. I played where the Atlantic Ocean blends with the Gulf of Mexico, on an island in the San Francisco Bay, and on the shores of Tampa Bay and the Peace River. Along the way, I spent time by the waters of Lake Minnetonka and the San Juan de Fuca Strait, and took ferry rides at opposite corners of the continental US. Everyplace I went, I made new friends and “evangelists” for my music and performances.

I used to joke that I’d play “weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals.” This past year, I played for a wedding anniversary and played in front of a funeral parlor. Two out of three ain’t bad. :)

I also wrote about a dozen songs, several of which will be released in 2014 and more of which you’ll get to hear at shows here and there. I think the songs being released next year are among the best I’ve ever written, and I hope you’ll agree.

In my personal life, which kind of mixes itself up with my music life, I made a decision that took me most of the year to work out: I decided it’s time to relocate. Last November, the Universe started sending me messages that I should consider moving to Florida, and after hemming and hawing and thinking about it and doing research for most of this year, a couple of months ago I made the decision to move. Not to Key West; I’d love to live in the Keys, but can’t really afford it. And affordability is part of what’s driving this move. But to southwest Florida, within easy driving distance of the Gulf and within a day’s drive of Key West.

I’ve still got some planning and prep work to do before I can pick up everything I own, cram it into something transportable (I’m leaning toward PODS), and take it and myself across country for only the second time. And I have to wait for a few things to happen, one of them definitely calendar-based, that will make it financially feasible. But by next November, I expect to be in a new home in a new place.

It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s sad, in a way – I’ll miss this place, and all my friends here.

Hopefully Janus, who presides over new beginnings and transitions, will help me out.

Getting to the Keys

In just a couple of weeks, it will have been ten years since my first trip to Key West. I will, of course, be celebrating that tenth anniversary by spending even more time in the Keys than I ever have on a single trip.

(You can listen to my song, “Living Key West,” while reading this. Just click the link.)

Southernmost - beautiful beach!

Southernmost – beautiful beach!

As part of my preparations this year, I’m rereading the book that probably did the most, after years of Buffett music, to get my fundament out of its comfortable rut here in the Bay Area and on a plane to south Florida. The book is titled Callahan’s Key, by Spider Robinson, a somewhat wacky romp by a loose “tribe” of individuals, formerly the clientele of Callahan’s Place, formerly the clientele of Mary’s Place, sick and tired of Long Island, who caravan to Key West to open up a bar and get telepathic in the hopes of saving the Universe. The back cover calls it an “improbable tale of impending doom, a road trip, space, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.”

Oh, and they all tell puns.

I’m not making any of this up.

As a writer, Spider has been influenced by the likes of Robert A Heinlein and John D. MacDonald, among many others. His descriptions and characters draw you in and keep you reading, even when you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. This book introduced me to the Keys, to Key West, and to some of the fascinating places there – Schooner Wharf, Mallory Square, and more. And motivated me to go *see* these places for myself.

So I did. :)

And over the years, I’ve collected my own share of pictures and stories about being in the Keys.

Picture of sunset at Mallory Square

Sunset at Mallory Square

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

Reef them sails before we capsize!

Even the cloudy days are beautiful.

Ten years of memories…and more to be made! :)

So this year I’m arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on 10/26. Yes, I’ll miss Fantasy Fest again. So it goes. Instead of racing to get to Key West like I have the past few years – needed to make the trip quickly in order to make gigs – I’m taking my time. I’ll spend two days traveling the 160 or so miles from FLL to Mile Zero, checking out places I’ve never been before, taking pictures, making memories. I’m hoping that Eric Stone will have his new bar, Dockside, open by the time I get there on the 27th; if not, I can always hang out at the Sunset Grill. Or both – I’ll have the time. :)

My “big gig” of the week is Monday night in Key West at the Rum Barrel. It’s my second year there, which is another first for me. I’ve got a four-hour set starting at 7, I’ll have Allen “Frankendread” Holland playing steel pan with me, and I know that a few of my musical friends will be stopping by to play a few.

I’ve got a show at Green World Gallery on Thursday at 2:30, will be in Key West Chris‘ showcase at Durty Harry’s sometime after that, and will otherwise be roaming the island with my guitar, hopefully playing a few songs here and there.

As well as getting off the beaten track every now and then to recharge and maybe write something new.

I bid farewell to Key West on Monday the 4th, and fly home on Tuesday the 5th.

There and back again, ten years after my first trip.

Should be fun.

Prohibition and Arizona Rum

I had the privilege of spending the evening at one of my favorite local watering holes, Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. They had a double-bill special program tonight, with a history talk and a rum tasting. Both turned out to be extremely interesting, and I’m glad I was there.

The talk was given by Richard Foss, author of Rum: A Global History. I’ve encountered Rich here and there over the years through some of the circles we share. His talk was “How Prohibition Changed America.” I can’t begin to remember everything involved, but here are some high points:

  • Before Prohibition, drinking was a much more integrated part of American life. There were hundreds of local breweries and distilleries, and various alcoholic beverages were marketed as healthy. Not only that, but alcohol was the basis for many of the “herbal compounds” of the early 20th Century, from Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound on down the line.
  • Prohibition was pushed as anti-immigrant (Irishmen and Germans drank; Irishmen and Germans were the Mexicans and Muslims of the early 20th Century), primarily by the then-Republican party, and much more by women than men. Drinking at bars became a predominently male occupation, and led to men not enjoying a leisurely dinner at home, because their wives were the ones pushing abstinence. (“Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine!”)
  • Many towns had two newspapers: One pro-prohibition, one anti. Apparently they seemed to report two entirely different views of reality.
  • Beer and wine distributors supported the Volstead Act (which enacted Prohibition nationwide), thinking that it was only about distilled spirits. They were very surprised to discover that they were included.
  • Americans got very creative about finding ways around Prohibition. Italian restaurants would give away wine with dinner, which helped Italian cuisine become popular.
  • The way Utah ended up voting to repeal Prohibition apparently was sold by saying, “This will be adding tax to liquor. But since we good Mormons don’t drink, we won’t have to pay that tax, though we’ll get the benefits from it.”

And there was much, much more – this is just a rapid and random brain dump. It was enlightening, how many elements of our current culture and how people try to enact social change have been around for at least a hundred years.

And then there was the rum.

There’s a new “micro-distillery” in Kingman AZ called Desert Diamond Distillery, makers of Gold Miner Rum. They’ve been open about five years, serving four rums and a vodka. I got to taste them all.

The vodka and white rum are decent examples of their respective categories. The white rum has its own set of flavors and aftertastes, very unlike something like Bacardi. I happen to think this is a good thing for their white rum. :)

They have three dark rums. I can’t recall which of them tastes like bourbon and which is just a very good dark rum, but the agave rum has somewhat of a sweeter flavor, and they call it a “dessert rum.” Definitely smooth on the palate.

“Joe-Bob says check ‘em out.” :)

All Aboard the Key West Express!

During my recent tour to southwest Florida, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to sneak away to one of my favorite islands for a day.

It’s a good long drive – 6-8 hours – each way from the Ft. Myers area to Key West. The Key West Express ferry service gets you there in about three and a half hours. If you’re prone to motion sickness, Dramamine isn’t a bad idea, especially if it’s a very windy day. But on our trip, the motion wasn’t bad – comparable to the average plane flight.

Picture of the Key West Express

The Key West Express

It costs about $150 for a round-trip, less if you buy tickets ahead of time. I got the best rate buying more than eight days in advance. You can either go back the same day, or stay in Key West for a while and go back when you’re ready.

There are several types of seating. On the main and second decks, there’s a mix of tables along the windows and “airplane”-type seats in the middle of the cabin. It looks like you can fit a lot of people on this boat!

Picture of the inside main cabin on the Key West Express

Inside the main cabin

There’s also a top deck, open to the wind. Once the boat gets up to speed, this can actually feel chilly, even in 80+ degree temperatures.

Picture of the top deck on the Key West Express

From the top deck – departing Key West

Once the boat gets under way, after the obligatory safety talk – where to find life vests and rafts in the “unlikely event of an emergency” – there’s a cute tourist video describing some of the wonderful attractions of Key West, most of which have probably paid for product placement. That didn’t bother me; I was on my way to Key West. But it’s worth noting that at least one hotel in town and the Conch Train have special deals for Express passengers.

For the rest of the trip, they’ve got movies playing. This trip, the focus seemed to be on science fiction and comedy; I’m guessing that other trips might have other movies. Or you can read, play games on your phone, or just watch the water slide rapidly by.

Speaking of your phone, there’s no Internet access and spotty phone coverage on the trip. Once you’re mostly out of sight of land, it’s two bars of signal at best and no 3G or 4G coverage. That’s on Verizon; other carriers might have better coverage. Truth to tell, I managed just fine for several hours without Internet or phone service.

You can also buy food – breakfast-type stuff on the way down, hot dogs, burgers, chicken strips and such on the way back. You can get various beverages, and they have a bar. Which I did spend a bit of time at, for research purposes of course.

We were coming into Key West at about the same time as a cruise ship, and I discovered something I’d never really noticed before – cruise ships are taller than the entire island!

Picture of Key West from a distance.

Key West on the horizon! Note the slightly higher bulge of the cruise ship at the right.

Once you arrive on the island, there’s a service willing to store your bags until it’s time to check into your hotel, motel, or B&B, cabs willing to take you wherever you want to go, and other people willing to help you get where you’re going and find what you want, for a fee. And it’s not a huge island; you can easily get wherever you need to go without a car.

Something you should keep in mind: It’s important to show up early, to make sure you get on board before departure. The earliest passengers also tend to get the table seats by the windows. The KWE Website has all of the necessary info on boarding times both ways – read it. In general, you’ll want to show up about an hour before the posted departure times.

I love driving down the Keys. Most trips, that’s how I get to Key West. And I’ll keep doing that when I can. But it’s nice to know there’s another worthwhile option for getting into town.

Loren’s rating: Five rum drinks (on a scale of zero to five).

One Night in a Roadside Bar…

Tonight’s commute sucked rancid, hairy swamp water. A commute that would normally take me an hour or so, and by 50 minutes in, I was maybe 2/3 of the way home.

At times like this, I do what any sane individual would do: I get off the freeway, find a place that serves booze and food, and hang out until the traffic eases up a bit. It’s usually a much better way to spend my time.

Tonight, I washed up on the shores of the Applebee’s in Fremont, right off 880 at Mowry. I think I’ve been there before, but it’s been a while. I bellied up to the bar, ordered myself a rum ‘n diet, and checked out their happy hour food menu.

One of the first things I noticed was that a fair number of the bar patrons seemed to know each other and the bartenders. While this isn’t necessarily something I’d expect from a chain restaurant, I adjust fairly easily. So I paid attention to the various conversations, and managed to contribute the following:

  • A lady next to me was on her way home from the hospital, where she’d left her husband for a knee replacement surgery. It sounds like he’s likely to turn out well, as this isn’t his first rodeo there, and we talked a bit about local stuff (I lived in Fremont for about five years) and the area in the Sierra foothills where she actually lives, where I got to spend some time about 15 years ago.
  • I met a very young (about a year old) and well-behaved man named Joaquin, who was supervising his dad while dad got himself something to drink.
  • A nice couple about four seats down apparently get there regularly, and were enjoying their evening.
  • A gentleman between them and me was away from his wings and beer more than he was enjoying them, because he apparently had to keep taking phone calls. I got a smile from him when I suggested he might suffer a “battery failure” until he got to finish his food. And his beer.

And so, half an hour or so later, after enjoying the company of a half-dozen total strangers, I was on my way again. Traffic had thinned out, and I got home in a reasonable amount of time.

Adventure and fun are where you find them.

Hunting the Sunset

Tonight I fed my soul.

I can’t speak for anybody else, really, but I know that my soul tends to need feeding on a regular basis. There’s a lot of stressors structured into the society I live in that suck out soul-stuff on a daily basis; if I don’t renew that, I get cranky, and start to forget the important stuff, like sunsets and loving myself enough to take time to enjoy them.

There’s somewhat of a universal appeal to a sunset, it seems. Tonight, for example, I went to what I think is part of Marina Park in San Leandro, about fifteen minutes from where I live. There’s a peninsula separating the marina from the Bay, with a fair bit of parking along the breakwater. It’s an easy destination for me, and for others.

Tonight, I heard at least two languages other than English out there, and saw folks from a number of different social, economic, and ethnic “communities” here. I saw people in tattered denim; I saw one foursome in formal wear. Each and every one of them went out of their way to come down by the water’s edge to watch the sun go down over the Peninsula.

In Key West, they’ve made sunset a celebration. They have jugglers, musicians, one guy who’s trained his cats to jump through hoops, dancers, and the occasional fire eater. And when the last edge of the sun disappears below the horizon, or below Tank Island (Sunset Key)…people applaud and cheer.

I was the only person who applauded tonight at San Leandro Marina, but that’s cool.

Just being by the water calms me. It was near low tide tonight, so the water was *way* out. The wind was almost calm; the water was almost glass-like. I also like the sound of waves slapping against the shore, but that wasn’t part of tonight’s symphony.

Picture of approaching sunset

Sunset Coming Soon

Advice for the Would-Be Sunset Hunter

I highly recommend showing up early. There are plenty of resources online and smart phone apps that will tell you what time sunset occurs where you are; look this stuff up ahead of time. If you plan to show up a half hour before actual sunset, this is enough time for you to really “arrive,” to let go of any stress you might have had about getting there in time, and if you take pictures or want to set up a folding chair, to figure out where you want to be and get settled there.

Another sunset picture

Low tide at San Leandro Marina – taken while waiting for sunset

Some clouds are good. Clouds are the stuff that the reddening light of the setting sun will color. A few strategically-placed clouds will turn an “ordinary” sunset into a spectacular one. If there are no clouds, you’ll still see a great sunset, but the truly photogenic ones have some high clouds in them.

I use my iPhone to take pictures. I have friends who use fancy cameras. They get better pictures. I get pictures that are still pretty spectacular. Use what you have. If you have a smartphone, try using the HDR setting on your cam software, or download an HDR app. This will take two pictures at different exposures and combine them. This can compensate for the sun’s glare, at least until the sun has gone down, and brings back other details in your pictures. Sometimes you get weird “ghosting” effects in an HDR picture, but if you’re digital, you can always delete it. :)

Roughly the same as the first sunset picture, with HDR

Up until the sun starts to cross the horizon, all the interesting stuff to look at and photograph is what’s around you – if you’re by the water, maybe the birds or boats are doing something interesting. I got a picture or two of a blimp tonight, which was in the air as a camera platform for the 49ers game at Candlestick. I could see the lights at the ‘Stick from my vantage point.

Contrails make a nice composition touch

Don’t look directly at the sun! You’ll go blind. Look off to one side or the other, or through the viewfinder of your camera/phone.

I take a bunch of pictures while the sun is crossing the horizon, trying to capture the exact moment of sunset. If I’m someplace like Key West, where I can see the sun crossing into the sea, I’m still hoping to see and get a picture of the “green flash.” When I’m by the Bay, I can’t see that of course – the sun disappears over the hills, and isn’t low enough to give me that view. But as I’ve written elsewhere…the sunset is still worthwhile. :)

Once the sun has set…wait. Keep watching. This is when the sky starts to turn interesting colors, especially if there are clouds. This stage of sunset can last another half hour or more, and is well worth sitting through. You can get a hint of what the clouds nearer the west will do by occasionally looking east – the colors will show up in the east first, and then travel across the sky with the Earth’s shadow.

Half an hour after sunset – worth waiting for!

If you’re taking pictures, rotate the camera from time to time – take some shots “portrait” and some “landscape.” You never know what’ll look great later.

After the red part of sunset starts to fade, you’re probably done taking pictures. Kick back and watch the sky for as long as you like before heading in.

I hope you enjoy many sunsets!