For decades, great film directors have coveted the “golden hour,” that elusive period of time between when the sun begins to set to its point of departure against a dark and distant horizon. Sunlight during this time has become shorthand for romance and drama on the big screen, acting as an unseen cast member that kisses extra warmth into the actors and sets its touches. George Barner, regional outdoor recreation coordinator for South Central Region State Parks in Pennsylvania, knows all too well the truly magical quality of light at sunset, and it’s inspired him to pick up his personal camera more than once. In 2010, Barner decided to share his love of sunsets and nature photography with visitors of the parks he serves, particularly those at Shawnee State Park in Schellsburg, Pennsylvania.
“I enjoyed watching the sunsets at Shawnee — it’s a beautiful, great place to watch them,” Barner says. “I wondered, how can I relay to other people about how neat this is? So I came up with the idea to share that spot with people and help them understand how to capture nature a little better, too.” Photos at Sunset classes are held in a series each summer to a typically small audience — around a half-dozen people — so Barner can give each photographer some individual attention. Attendees learn about light levels, different exposures and creative ways to position their shots for maximum effect. Shawnee State Park has 15 Kodak Easyshare Digital Cameras to loan to participants who don’t have one of their own, and at the end of class, “we burn their photos to disc so folks can take their pictures home,” Barner says.
“I like [the Photos at Sunset class] because it’s a nice, relaxing program, and it’s hands-on,” he continues. “It tracks with the Get Outdoors PA initiative I work with, to introduce people to outdoor recreation where we have equipment they can borrow to see if they like [an activity] before they make the investment. It’s a great opportunity to learn a lifetime activity you can do whether you’re 8 or 80, and people can actually see results of what they do, too.”
Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.