The past two days have featured the most beautiful weather you could imagine. Temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s, the dew points (hence humidity) were low, the sky azure blue. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go.
I tried to convince Helaine to go to New York City, but with Steffie studying for finals, she wanted to stay nearby. I called a friend, trying to see if he’d take a drive to the shore. Zero.
This afternoon, the sunshine was too much to take. I put the top down on the car and headed toward Branford with the intention of catching the setting Sun over Long Island Sound.
Though I often kvetch about the winter weather, there’s no doubt Connecticut is spectacularly beautiful. I live in an area called Mount Carmel, though I’m only at 280 feet above sea level. Within a mile of our house is Sleeping Giant Mountain.
When the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, they left much of what they were pushing forward in place. That’s how Long Island got to be where it is and how Southern Connecticut has some sharp, though not very tall, ‘mountains.’ Most notable are East Rock, overlooking New Haven Harbor and Sleeping Giant.
In the Sound itself are many pint sized island, often one single rock, left with the glacial retreat. The group off the Branford shoreline is called the Thimble Islands.
Stony Creek, an area in Branford overlooking the Thimbles was my destination. The thought was I’d go there early enough to see the sunset, get some photos and go home.
I hadn’t been to the Branford shoreline for a number of years, and I appreciate it more today. There are some ostentatious homes, though most are not. In fact the best way to characterize the architecture of Stony Creek is, appropriate. This is the right place to have a fence or home draped with floats that usually mark the lobster pots that sit beneath the water’s surface.
Parking was easier than I’d ever seen it at the Town Dock. The view was clear all the way to the horizon. There were few boats moving among the islands – probably due to the later hour.
I’ve only been on a Thimble Island once in my twenty years here. Someone I used to work with used to be married to a someone whose parents owned a small home on Governors Island – right next door to Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau. I spent an afternoon trying to be nonchalant whenever in their presence.
The house I visited was small and sweet. The center of the island was like the spine of a large flat rock. Though there was fresh water and a telephone (in those pre-cell days) at the house, there was no outside source of electricity. When it got dark outside, it got dark inside.
As the Sun began to set, I began to realize it would be setting behind a small hill – not over the water. I got in my car and began to drive.
Because Branford’s shoreline is irregular, it was impossible to know if or when I’d find a spot with a view. And, even if there was a spot, it might not have parking or be open to strangers at all.
I headed down one road with houses on one side and a salt marsh on the other. It was obvious from the beginning there would be no sunset from here, but the view across the marsh toward an inlet from the Sound and a large marina was impressive. So was a closer scene of two ducks in a small salt pond at the edge of the marsh.
After a few minutes I moved on. Using the deep, late day shadows as my guide, I headed to a residential area. Four houses faced a small inlet. Though the sign said “No Parking,” I pulled to the curb and shut my engine. In the twenty minutes I stayed, there were no other cars.
There still wasn’t a clear shot to the Sun setting over the water, but there was a nice notch in a hill where the Sun would dip. In the foreground a sailboat was moored in the channel.
I took as many shots as I could, bracketing the exposures. I’m going to have to rethink this type of shot because I’m still not sure I got the best balance between the red sky and the sailboat… or if this type of shot is even possible in the digital world. When I allowed enough light for the boat, the sky lost its color. And, when I let the red sky dominate, the boat couldn’t be seen. Even with Photoshop this picture isn’t nearly as nice as what I saw with the naked eye.
After nearly 7,000 photos there is still plenty I don’t know about my camera – stuff I want to learn. There was probably some technique I could have use to improve my chances of a good shot. But what?
The Sun was down as I left Branford, but that made my two last shots even nicer. Branford’s Green has a few churches, including one built in 1640. It is starkly lit at night and stood out well.
A few blocks down the road is the town’s library. From the outside it is an imposing building with a domed roof and stately columns. Inside (of course it wasn’t open on a Sunday night at 8:30 PM), it seems like the kind of place Conan Doyle would put Sherlock Holmes. The floor plan is probably considered impractical today, with its alcoves and curved walls, but it is fun to be in.
All the pictures from this entry are available in a larger format in my photo gallery, or by clicking on any individual photo