Photographing a Red River Gorge Sunset

I suppose you could say I’m a bit of a spontaneous guy. I tend to come up with ideas at the last minute and just sort of act on them. Some of my best adventures have been the result of coming up with an idea, grabbing a pack, and just going. This trip was one of those spur-of-the-moment ideas. The plan was simple, drive to Red River Gorge, hike onto Auxier Ridge, and photograph the sunset. How hard could that be?!


I was a bit worried about traffic on this trip. I live about two hours away from Red River Gorge and I would be driving down there during rush-hour just a few days before Christmas. Luckily, traffic really wasn’t much of an issue on this trip.

What was an issue, however, was the sky. Now, I checked several weather sources before heading out and they all said partly cloudy to clear skies. The skies I was seeing, however, were completely overcast… Not exactly what we want for a sunset shoot!

I decided to press on and see what happened.

Arriving at the Ridge

I arrived on Auxier Ridge quite a bit sooner than I had anticipated. I’m not sure why, but I had for some reason remembered this hike taking about twice the amount of time. I suppose that’s because I typically combine this with Double Arch.

The view from the ridge.
The view from the ridge.

Regardless, it was nice to arrive early and have plenty of time to eat some dinner and enjoy the views. The best part… I had the ridge all to myself!

The only problems were that the clouds were not thinning out and the wind was starting to get cold… really cold. Luckily, I came prepared with some extra layers and gloves, so I decided to wait it out and see what happened with those pesky clouds.

The Wait is On

I patiently waited for the clouds to thin out. Even with just a short amount of time before the sunset actually happened, the clouds just weren’t thinning out all that dramatically.

So I waited.

That’s when it happened. Just moments before the sun was to set behind the Double Arch ridge, the clouds cleared enough to get some color!

Getting the Shot

I had a shot pre-composed and the camera set to bracket the exposures. I took the shot.

The camera was all set up for the shot.
The camera was all set up for the shot.

What I saw on the back of the camera was disappointing. There just wasn’t enough color in the sky to make this composition work. The foreground was simply too boring.

That’s when it hit me. I had a nice, bright red jacket on. If I were to stand in the frame it might add just enough foreground interest to make the shot work.

I put the camera on a 10 second timer, stepped into the frame. After the final clicks of the shutter, I went back to the camera to asses the capture. I think I have it!

The Hike Back

The sunset was over; The light was quickly fading and the temperatures were dropping by the second. It was time to get back to the car. This, of course, meant hiking back in the dark.

It was a dark hike back.
It was a dark hike back.

Luckily, I had anticippated this well in advance, so I was plenty preparred with a headlamp, and a new flashlight I wanted to test out: The ThorFire BD04 flashlight (which was much cheaper on Amazon, but they are currently unavailable). Let me just say, I am quite impressed with that little flashlight!

The Shot

Once I got home I imported my images into Lightroom and performed the usual backup procedure. I then stacked my bracketed exposures. As soon as I saw the image I knew… the trip had been worth it!

Enjoying the Sunset
The sunset I captured.

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