Archive for the ‘sunset’ Tag
I really love that light that comes with the sun very low on the horizon and a storm almost upon you. That’s exactly what happened the other day on the beach. Everyone had left when the sky turned threatening. I tried to stick it out as long as possible because I saw that the sun was poking underneath the clouds as it set in the west. All I needed was a bit of luck. If the storm held off until the light softened and warmed just enough I had the chance for a nice image of the empty beach.
This was my very last shot, standing in the shallow surf as a wall of heavy rain had just started pelting me in the back. The onset of rain was so sudden and violent that my camera started getting seriously soaked during the 3 sec. exposure. I quick shoved it under my shirt and made a mad dash for the safety of the car, bolts of lightning hitting disturbingly nearby. They tell you not to be on the beach in thunderstorms like that, and now I understand exactly why. Thanks for looking!
This was a sunset I shot on the spur of the moment while driving through the South Pass area of Wyoming a couple days ago. I didn’t realize then that it would be the last time I would see clouds and colorful skies for awhile. It’s been clear as a bell since, and the weather forecast for the entire western U.S. shows nothing but cloudless skies and hot weather for the foreseeable future.
I almost didn’t stop. But the light was so nice I couldn’t stop myself from pulling off on the shoulder and running up a nearby slope. There were low outcrops poking out of the prairie, tilted layers of sandstone covered with colorful lichen. It was the only foreground available in the open rolling terrain of southwestern Wyoming.
South Pass is where Interstate 80 passes over the Continental Divide. It’s by far the lowest and gentlest pass through the Rocky Mountains in North America. There are gentle passes to the south in New Mexico, but that is where the Rockies begin to peter out. South Pass has high rugged ranges both to the south and north.
I usually try to avoid interstates because of the dominance of tractor trailers, the difficulty of stopping when I see a shot, and because they generally pass through boring terrain compared to minor highways. I made an exception this time and chose South Pass because my van is running very hot on hills and needs to be looked at. The engine is almost new, so I’m not too happy about it. I’m headed back to the mechanic.
I hope everyone has had a fantastic weekend. Have a great week ahead!
Sometimes I follow up the previous week’s Friday Foto Talk post with one that relates in some way to the topic. So this post is an extension to Using Foregrounds Judiciously. It’s an example of how I go about using foregrounds, and in general how I often shoot landscapes (it’s not how most do it).
EXAMPLE – Golden Hour on the Olympic Coast:
A few days ago I was at Rialto Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. You may have seen pictures of the Olympic Coast on the web; it’s pretty popular with landscapers. Less popular are sections of the coast away from the road that require hiking. Backpackers are more common than serious photographers in these areas.
I scouted this one in the afternoon, hiking north along the beach to find good locations for what was looking like a great sunset. I only took a few photos; mostly I just had fun beach-combing and exploring tide pools. I don’t always scout ahead of time, but it’s nice when time allows. It helps to give me ideas of how I want to portray the place. And it’s fun! Often I scout but then decide before golden hour to shoot somewhere else. It’s still valuable though, since I can always return another day.
The coastline north of Rialto is spectacular and much too rugged for a road. It has a wilderness feel, and it’s wise to take care if you decide to hike here. Slippery rocks, rough surf, sneaker waves, and giant drift logs that can shift alarmingly under your weight are all potential dangers.
After setting up my camp just inland, I was pressed for time. I knew where I wanted to hike to: just north of a place called Hole in the Wall (image below), but preferably a 1/2 mile or so farther. Even though I was in a hurry, I shot along the way.The light was beautiful! I didn’t take time with a tripod, but it wasn’t strictly necessary with the sun still above the horizon. These little stops meant I wasn’t going to make it any further than Hole in the Wall, and even then it would be close.
There is a campsite just before a headland that you have to climb up and over to get where you can shoot Hole in the Wall itself. Some large sea stacks (formerly one single stack that collapsed several years ago) lie just off the beach there. This spot is the most popular at Rialto (why I wanted to go further). A few had their tripods set up, waiting for sunset. I passed them, shooting a few quick hand-helds. The stacks there are just too big and close for my liking, at least in silhouette shooting sunset.
This may seem like I’m describing a measured approach, and it would’ve been if I was a bit earlier and the sun wasn’t sinking quickly (as it always does except for higher latitudes). Truth is I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off!
I climbed the headland and shot a few pictures from up top, looking down and out to the north (image above). Then I stumbled down to the beach, taking a shot along the way, and still I had not gotten any close foreground. I spotted a tide-pool that was reflecting the lovely light. It was on a rock shelf composed of thin-bedded sedimentary rock stood on its end, forming great leading lines. Running down there, I finally got those close-foreground shots I wanted just as the sun set. I was actually a tad late for the peak light, more on the cusp of blue hour. But I was just in time for images that I’m happy with, and that’s what counts.
As you can see, I try to jam in as much as possible when the light is good. This is one reason I like to shoot alone. Most landscapers would look at me and think “there’s a rank amateur”. Most prefer to be already set up at one place, from which they will shoot for the entire time that light is at its peak. They don’t miss shots like I sometimes do, but that’s because they’re not trying to get as much as I am.
Sometimes things backfire on me, but I like the variety I can get from a single “light event”. And even well-planned shots can backfire anyway. I do sometimes plan or visualize beforehand and stick to a plan to get a particular image. On those occasions I try not to extemporize (much!). But that isn’t my main modus operandi, simply because planned shots so often don’t work out. There are too many variables at play.
To me it seems a bit old-fashioned to set up way ahead of time and stick your feet in the same place throughout the shoot. It’s what was done in the old days with heavy large-format film gear, even glass plates if you go far enough back. It’s also what you have to do when you’re shooting very popular compositions, just so you beat your competitors to the spot. But digital gear is pretty darn lightweight. So if you’re practiced at using your tripod and camera you can shoot different compositions in fairly rapid succession. And who wants over-done shots anyway?
As you can see only one of my many shooting positions had very close foreground; the rest had either more distant foreground or middle-ground elements. Some are just subject and sky. I don’t always shoot like this of course. Sometimes I like to work slower and get fewer shots, with more time to admire the moment. But in a place like the Olympic Coast in great light, it’s tempting to make it sort of a workout. When it goes well (like last night) I don’t feel stressed. It’s actually sort of a rush, one that I slowly came down from walking back along the beach, the Pacific glinting in the moonlight. Happy shooting!
Unlike many photographers, I don’t think subjects like the sunset or a rainbow are necessarily cliche’. But they can easily dominate a composition, and it’s that which can get tiresome. The Milky Way has become exactly the same way in recent years. But with that said, I do get tired of shooting toward the setting sun.
On a recent afternoon at the beach, after photographing a sail boat in front of the lowering sun (already posted for Wordless Wednesday), I set up to capture the color, which as usual was concentrated toward the west. But when I put the wide-angle lens on and found some interesting foreground rocks, instead of shooting a standard composition, I started messing around.
The first shot is actually an accident. I was experimenting with camera movement but ended up not liking any of the results. Then a big wave came in and I had to quickly grab the tripod and raise it above my head to save my camera from a dousing. I left the rocks then, not wanting to push my luck (plus I was soaked). Later when checking out the images I liked this last one the best.
The second picture was well after sunset, when palm trees framed the crescent moon. The sun was long gone but was still coloring the horizon and high clouds. It’s a twilight image, but not too long of an exposure, because of the need to keep the moon sharp.
The first image is the kind of thing that happens accidentally but only to those who are giving luck and chance an opportunity. The second picture is the kind I really like, not only because it happens after other photographers have gone, but because it’s only possible with patience and faith that the show isn’t really over.
I’m finally concluding this series with tips on photography at Zion National Park. Believe it or not I will get back to regular Friday Foto Talk posts next week, promise!
Actually, there is one extra topic for Zion that I’ve been avoiding, at least until I get back there for more shots that match the theme. That’s life and biodiversity at Zion. With the great variation in elevation and available water in the park, there is an amazing diversity of plants and animals.
For example it’s relatively easy to see desert bighorn sheep but much tougher to find the Zion snail, or to notice other interesting plant and animal species. But it’s certainly a worthwhile topic to learn about, especially if you’re a nature photographer. Here’s a good website for that.
I feel the same way about telling you what and where to shoot as I do recommending specific places to go. I don’t want to be like that tour guide who leads you to some viewpoint where he looks expectantly at you and your camera. Then he’s slightly annoyed if instead of taking a picture where everybody else does you stop and shoot in odd places, throwing a wrench in his agenda. But I do want to provide some guidance. It’s a fine line, so please consider the following as suggestions only.
PHOTOS AT SUNRISE
East Zion is my favorite area to shoot at sunrise. Hiking up the slickrock where it’s not too steep will get you the necessary elevation above the road. Tip: you can walk very steep sandstone slickrock without slipping because it offers amazing friction, belying its name. You’ll see most people shooting from near the road, but that follows a canyon, often putting you just a little too low.
Waterpockets are pools of water that hang around on the sandstone bedrock well after rains. Do some exploring during the day and try to find some of these at Zion. You’ll have much more luck in East Zion than elsewhere, but anywhere high up, like Kolob Terrace or up on one of the rims of Zion Canyon, offers good waterpocket hunting. Of course if you’re there off-season, by next morning you could find your pool frozen. But so much the better!
Canyon Hiking in the early morning can offer very nice image possibilities. Most canyons face generally west, but in the right light, shooting in canyon bottoms at Zion is perfect (and uncrowded!) at sunrise.
PHOTOS AT SUNSET
Zion Canyon faces southwest, so late afternoon light tends to flood up the canyon in fall when the sun is to the south. When the sun sets more directly west in spring and summer the sun sets behind mountains. But you’ll still have good shooting if some clouds are around reflecting and sweetening the light.
The Virgin River at sunset is a nice low-energy thing to try. Walk anywhere along its length from the entrance on up to the Narrows. Even with the sun itself obscured you may get that special glow seeping down into the canyon bottom.
Hike high up on Zion Canyon’s sides, as high as energy and terrain allow. Then you can either shoot up-canyon in front-light or down-canyon in back-light. I have several spots like this that I’m fond of. I gave away one in the last post (whinny!), so I’ll keep the rest to myself and let you find your own.
Kolob Terrace is great at sunset, or sunrise if clouds are kicking around. Drive up the road from Virgin early so you can do some exploring to find unique perspectives.
The Kolob Canyons area also faces west, so going up there for sunset, then heading back down to camp at Red Cliffs Campground is a good plan. It’s at the mouth of a lovely wet canyon that faces east for sunrise photos.
Ranch Land on the western approach to the park offers nice front-light in late afternoon. Fall colors here linger a bit longer than higher in the canyons. You can find peaceful pastures to shoot with Eagle Crags in the background (Eagle Crags is a good off-beat place to hike to as well).
Anywhere: If you’re lucky enough to have stormy weather at Zion, or the daytime light is otherwise spectacular, try any of the above ideas, or just wander around with your eyes open.
The Canyon Overlook Trail near the east tunnel entrance, while it’s best at sunrise, offers a spectacular view of Pine Creek Canyon at any time.
Riparian Zones are plant-filled riverside canyon bottoms. They’re a challenge to shoot because of all the “stuff”. But they are nonetheless worthwhile places to look for intimate landscapes. Try walking Pine Creek either up or downstream from the bridge.
The Aeries of Angel’s Landing and Observation Point are sublime spots for overview shots of the canyon.
There are plenty of other places to shoot at Zion if you do some wandering around. And I haven’t even spoken of all the places outside the park. So use your imagination and don’t follow the crowd.
That’s it, we’re done! I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and the pictures as well. I was surprised I had so many that were worthy of posting. But would you think me greedy if I said I wanted more? Have a great time at Zion National Park!
Have you noticed that pretty much every photographer publishes a “best-of” list at the end of each year? Hmm…not sure if I want to continue to cooperate on this. I never feel good about doing things that seem expected; just my personality. So I’ll do my own variation on the theme. I’ll post three of my favorites for the year. Not 10, and certainly not 15.
But here’s the hitch: if you have other ideas on the matter, images of mine that you’ve seen either here on the blog or on my website, by all means let me know and I’ll post them. They will appear with your name in upcoming Single-image Sunday or Wordless Wednesday posts. Just comment on this post with the link to the shot or describe it using its title/caption.
I love this first one for the exceedingly brief moment it represents, and the way it tells a story about the battle between storm and mountain range. The placid pasture with grazing cattle is just the sort of contrast that a story-telling image is made stronger for.
I’m fond of this next one not only because I almost didn’t get up it was so windy and cold, but it’s one of my rare “planned shots”. I have been wanting to get a well-balanced shot of this barn and homestead in nice light for quite a long time. Also, the horse being outside on a very chilly dawn made me think it was meant to be.
I like last one a lot because while the sky is not overly colorful, it’s amazing the way sunlight can be aimed as a powerful beam when it is squeezed between cloud and landscape. And when that light is collected on a simple hillside of quaking aspen, where I had just barely reached an opening in the forest, it can turn your whole world golden.
Happy New Year everyone!
This was a sunset I was blessed with the other night. It’s got all my favorite Christmas colors except for green. But you can’t have everything (if you did then Christmas wouldn’t be so special). So for everyone out in the world, Merry Christmas and (as the pope said today): May peace be within you. And I’ll add may peace be within and without you for 2016.