Essay: On the Sun’s Glare
(2016) The number one rule of photography is to keep your back to the sun. Even with today’s digitronics and filters, the subject is shaded out nicely if the photographer chooses to include the sun in the photograph. In the days of movie film, a cameraman could burn out the lens of a camera if he was trying to capture some sort of sun shot. It was hardly worth the trade off in those days. Today it’s a simple tap of the thumb to dump the photo in the electronic waste bin and try again.
This much can be true regarding the selection of a cycling route. As a matter of fact just yesterday morning I was returning to my regular drive to work along a cycling corridor of River Road. As I came around a banked sharp corner two things came into view: one a blanketing glare captured my windshield. The other was the slight visual of two cyclists riding two wide.
Luckily I keep an eye out for this situation, but it was a bit unnerving to catch a small glimpse of them. They were riding two wide at the exit of a fast blind corner wearing dark colors, no lights, and in a shaded area. I don’t think I have to try hard to convince anyone this is an extremely risky situation. Combine the fact that my windshield was blinded for a moment and everything should have turned out differently. But it didn’t.
I’ve often mentioned my route on constant stand-by. If I have to get out and time is an issue, I roll down the same squarish road combination. It may be boring to many, but to me getting some miles in is better than nothing at all. Or still, it’s better than the blasted rollers. Last year I needed to rediscover why I never rode the course in an anticlockwise direction. It was after work. I wanted some miles in regards to the waning summer light. The discovery as to why I don’t ride in that direction was clear straight away.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget about seasonal glare as the Earth begins its recline for Northern Hemisphere winter. Riding with polarized sunglasses makes it feel as though everyone can see as clearly as I can. Not so with any motorist who hasn’t wiped down a windshield in the past few weeks. On these roads many of them angle upwards toward the setting sun, which doesn’t help matters either. A cyclist can be lit up like a jumbo jet on final approach and the motorist wouldn’t see a thing until it was too late. I finished the route last year with coping by looking over my shoulder each time a car came up behind me as I rode into the setting sun. Those kind of concerns are unnecessary.
For the sake of removing one danger I now ride west first, before the sun begins to reach for the horizon to pull itself down. A turn to either the north or south will allow the cyclist to eventually come ripping back toward the setting sky with the added benefit of a clearer light for motorists to regard. It takes a little planning but imagine how greatly reduced the stress of the ride would be.
For now we should probably reposition all our ‘Vote for creakybottombracket.com 2016’ signs so motorists and cyclists can read them in the setting sun. Or we’ll just wait for snowplows to shatter them.