Whatcom Magazine

To enjoy Whatcom sunsets, look in more than one direction

When photographing sunsets, such as this one at Zuanich Point Park, look for clouds to capture and present a variety of colors.
When photographing sunsets, such as this one at Zuanich Point Park, look for clouds to capture and present a variety of colors. The Bellingham Herald

With the first few crocuses already adding dots of yellow and purple to dormant winter flower beds, the leaden clouds of winter begin to lift a bit too, and evening sunsets draw us outdoors to dozens of westward vantage points.

You know the obvious ones in Bellingham: Boulevard Park or, to the south, Marine Park at the foot of Harris Avenue in Fairhaven. Both are such popular sunset-watching sites that parking spots are nonexistent when the weather is decent at sunset.

Parking is seldom a problem at Zuanich Point Park, with lots of grass, flower beds and a pleasant waterfront promenade imbedded in Squalicum Harbor. You’ll enjoy the same sunset views across Bellingham Bay toward the San Juan Islands, and the fisherman’s statue atop the memorial to departed local fishers can make an interesting silhouette in your sunset photos.

For a loftier vantage point, you can’t beat the plaza outside the Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University. Another fine spot is the tower near the crest of Sehome Hill. Getting there requires a short walk through the woods.

For a change, go to the trail bridge over the steep slope of Alabama Street for a sunset with the city spread wide in the foreground.

Two of the finest sunset spots in Whatcom County can be found in the Blaine area. Semiahmoo Park closes at sunset, but there are several vantage points along the road between the park and Semiahmoo Resort, at the end of Semiahmoo Spit.

Just east of Semiahmoo, in Blaine proper, the port maintains a public pier at the end of Marine Drive that also provides a splendid spot to watch the sun go down over the water, with the resort silhouetted against the light.

Here’s a location that might not have occurred to you: the pedestrian walkway over Alabama Street on Alabama Hill. The project drew a lot of criticism as a boondoggle when it was built to get trail users safely across the wide, busy street. Besides that safety feature, the walkway also offers a panorama for a sunset, with the city spread out in the foreground.

Bellingham photographer Tore Ofteness often looks east as the sun sets, because one of his passions is photographing Mount Baker as daylight fades.

When the sun is setting, most people naturally aim their cameras or phones at the sun. But amazing things can happen to the sun’s light as it nears the horizon and is filtered by water vapor, as well as dust and smoke. Some wonderful photos could be had by aiming elsewhere.

Well-known Bellingham photographer Tore Ofteness says he tends to look east, not west, as the sun is setting. One of his passions is photographing Mount Baker as daylight fades, especially if a full moon is rising over the mountain to enliven the composition.

Ofteness gets his best shots of the mountain from the seat of a Cessna airplane, but you can get some excellent results from any good mountain vantage point without leaving the ground.

Zuanich Park, unlike Boulevard or Marine parks, offers a view of the southern portion of the city to the southeast, where the setting sun creates dramatic lighting effects on the hillside homes, Western Washington University campus and even the old freighter at the port’s shipping terminal.

That golden sunset glow can also light up some wonderful portraits of the people around you. If there’s nobody else you want to glorify with a golden nimbus, you can always whip out your selfie stick.