Summer sunsets to warm your evenings
Skies swept with pink, orange, red, yellow and sometimes even lilac — the long summer evenings give us the gift of the golden hour. It also means you can take in the beauty of nature while the sun is still out. Get some top tips on summer photography, read about the summer wildlife that emerges at dusk and discover the joys of walking in the countryside with the setting sun as your backdrop.
In this article:
- The joys of a summer evening walk
- Sunset photography tips
- Wildlife to spot at dusk
- '50 things to do before you're 11¾' activities to try
- A virtual tour of sunrises and sunsets
- Sunsets in our collections and the history of the solstice
The longest day of the year, on 20 June in 2020, is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and appears to stand still. Traditionally, this was commemorated by lighting and jumping over bonfires, a custom dating back to pre-Christian pagan times. This was thought to keep demons away, encourage a healthy harvest and bring good luck to lovers.
Everything seems to change when the light streams down through woodland trees of many shades of green. On summer walks the evenings are balmy, and you can feel the joy that beams down on you from the setting sun.
The latest that the sun will set this year is at around 9.20pm. The lighter evenings can be a great time to get out in nature and soak up the warmth of the season.
That beautiful glow from the summer sun in the evenings is known as golden hour. If you venture out in the extra hours of the day to take some photos of your favourite parts of nature, remember these tips from award-winning photographer Justin Minns, who regularly photographs places we care for around East Anglia.
Turn to the side
When the sun shines from the side, this enhances shape and texture and is especially effective at golden hour when the sun's low. Stand where the light is to one side of you and what you're capturing and let the light work its magic.
Warm it up
If your camera has a white balance control, setting it to cloudy will make the colours appear warmer and will help bring out those golden hour tones. If you are using a phone camera there should be a filter to achieve a similar look.
Golden hour creates long shadows with a dramatic effect. At the beach, stand with the sun behind you and photograph your shadow stretching out across the sand. Hide the sun behind trees – their shadows will radiate out towards you in bold lines.
A simple but dramatic technique is to create a silhouette. Set the camera so that the sky is properly exposed and everything else will appear as a dark shape. It works best with something simple like a tree or windmill.
Make it sparkle
You can create an effect known as a sunstar, when the sun will appear as a star shape. To get this effect, set the camera’s aperture to a high number (f/16 - f/22) and make the sun as small as possible by partially hiding it behind something.
Spot bats in the lighter evenings
Among other summer wildlife, bats come out during the longer evenings – the extra hours at dusk could be the perfect time for you to spot bats that live locally. Tom Clarke, Land, Outdoors & Nature Engagement Officer at Purbeck Estate, has some tips for spotting them in your garden or when you're out and about.
'Bats are everywhere. Look out for them at dusk when the sky is clear. You'll see them in gardens and parks – hedgerows are great places to spot these nocturnal creatures. Either lie on your back on a blanket, or go for a slow walk, checking the gradually darkening sky for movement. If you have kids, let them lead you – they have much younger eyesight and are usually much better at finding bats in the gloaming than you are.'
Top bat tip: make your own bat detector. Pick a long stem of plantain or grass that has a seed head and wobble it above your head. Bats will come and investigate thinking that the seeds are insects to eat.
" My solstice is marked by sunset point on a distant blue hill. For the whole of the first half of the year, I rush out to look at every decent sunset and mark the sun on the horizon as it marches northwards from its westerly midpoint in March. "
Dawns and sunsets for armchair viewing
Sunset over the creek at Newtown National Nature Reserve, Isle of Wight
Sunset over Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Sunset at Brecon Beacons, Powys
Sunset over Upper Lough Erne at Crom, County Fermanagh
Sunrise over Whitburn Coastal Park near Souter Lighthouse, Tyne & Wear
Sunrise over Pillbox Pond at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
National Trust Podcast episode 79: Midsummer magic and mayhem
For millennia, midsummer has been steeped in tales of mystery and magic. It inspired the construction of great temples, the lighting of bonfires and was even said to have caused people to act in strange and surprising ways. In this episode, we explore the meaning behind the legends of the summer solstice. And we discover why so many people feel a mystical connection to this time of year.
Nature's palette – what makes the sky go red?
When the sun is low on the horizon the light travels through more of the atmosphere towards us than it does during the rest of the day. Because of the nature of the molecules, more of the shortwave blue wavelengths are scattered aside than other wavelengths in the colour spectrum, and the light appears red or orange to us.
The same effect occurs whenever light takes a long path through the atmosphere before it reaches our eyes. For example, if a layer of cloud extends almost to the horizon, the distant strip of sky that remains visible just below it will frequently look orange or red.
Curious about the weather? Check out How to Read the Weather by Storm Dunlop on our online shop.