Clouds make the sunset. If it’s a clear sky, the sun is just a little orange ball sinking out of sight below the horizon.
Too many clouds on the western horizon cuts off the sunset afterglow colors.
But it doesn’t take many of the right kind of clouds, well positioned, to dramatically enhance the colors. Here, only a few cumulus clouds are on the horizon, but just high enough to leave a gap above the distant mountains, so that the sun’s rays aren’t cut off from the sky above. The clouds reflect the warm colors of the just-set sun and, in this instance, even spread it out into rays.
Photo location: Little Chino Valley, Yavapai County, central Arizona highlands. Elevation 5,000 feet.
Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL5, shot in Camera Raw format, post processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 for control over the values, such as contrast and shadow detail.