Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sunset glow over Silverdale

Sunset glow over Silverdale (click on the photograph for a larger version)

The sun rises across the bay from Grange over Sands, then sets behind the hills at the back of our house. We don't see the sun go down, but when the conditions are right we often get a warm glow on the opposite side of the bay. I was working at the computer and missed most of the show tonight until Sue called out to look at the clouds. The hills behind us had already cast their shadow across the water and was reach up into the cloud, but enough sun was still reaching in creating a fiery glow which appears to emanate from inside the clouds themselves.

Knowing the effect wouldn't last very long I dashed to the upper windows of the house. The buildings and trees across the road from us interfere with wider views, I had to get above those for a clear shot. Needless to say, my 10 stop filter was still mounted, card not present, half the settings left for anything by what I required. Joe Cornish uses the phrase 'if you can see it, you've missed it' and this always rattles through my mind as I watch special light slowly changing. Time to ditch the tripod and get on with shooting what was left - catching the tail end of the show.

One of the advantages of shooting away from a sunrise or sunset is the dynamic range is usually quite small, there were no tricky exposure problems with this shot or desperate need for graduated filters. I did darken the top of the frame slightly in pp, so maybe a 1 stop grad would have had its use, though I wasn't about to turn my back and run around the house looking for that! A quick check of the histogram, the main point to watch is the right side of the red channel. Sunrises and sunsets are notoriously difficult to hold the red highlights, but no problems here, a combination of low dynamic range and orangey values rather than outright reds.

The shutter speed was slower than I'd like for hand holding at 1/50th, but with both elbows firmly planted on the window ledge and using mirror lock-up it proved adequate. I use mirror lock-up frequently for hand held shots, especially when well braced against a solid object. It means you aren't 100% sure of what is in the frame when you open the shutter, but its one less source of camera movement. OK for landscapes, I can't see it catching on in sports photography or if precise edge detail is required.

Balancing colours is always a bit of a game with sunsets, though somewhat easier when the computer is only seconds away from where the photograph was taken and memories still fresh. My studio site is dedicated to black and white photography - although this would have made a dramatic black and white shot I felt it was important to retain the colour - making use of LAB colour processing to separate the colour values from contrast while working on the final image.

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