In over ten years of living in and photographing the town of Marblehead, I had never before captured a sun pillar. When I was out on March 4th to shoot the sunset after a snowfall, I thought I had scored with images of Abbot and Crocker Park as well as another of the Neck (I’ll share that one on Wednesday).  In fact, the way the clouds were breaking, I was about ready to pack up my gear until I spotted the vertical shaft of light forming a sun pillar.

I had to look up the phenomenon and realized why I hadn’t manage to capture it before. According to EarthSky.org, “Sun pillars or light pillars form when sunlight (or another bright light source) reflects off the surfaces of millions of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds – for example, cirrostratus clouds. The ice crystals have roughly horizontal faces. They are falling through Earth’s atmosphere, rocking slightly from side to side.”

As I tend to shoot fewer sunsets in the winter, I hadn’t had much chance to see (or capture) this interesting phenomenon before.