Sometimes when I arrive at a location for a sunset, conditions do not look promising for any good results. There are times when luck intercedes, conditions take a turn for the better and something extraordinary is before you just waiting for you to trip the shutter. The image almost composes itself. Other times you have to really work at getting the most from a particular set of circumstances, and even then you can come away with nothing. When I went to the lake on this evening, it was not a particularly energizing sunset…the interesting clouds hugged the horizon and they were pretty normal as sunsets go. The one thing in my favor was the calm waters for perfect reflections. But even then, still nothing to write home about; the scene needed something extra. It sure would have been nice if a fish surfaced just in the right spot within the frame to leave a circle of ripples to break the flat surface of the water. But that would be an extraordinary stroke of luck. Or… I could try to make my own ripples by tossing a rock right where I wanted them! I suppose some old skills kicked in from my softball playing days a century ago, and I lobbed a small stone high enough so it would hit the water dropping almost straight down to have just a single rippled circle rather than several from the splash if the rock were thrown with a low trajectory. The throw turned out to be pretty accurate for where I wanted it in the frame and I ended up with the photo at the top. The small circles simply add something extra on which the viewer can rest their eyes, giving the image a sense of place and making it a bit less of a pure abstract.
Since I really liked the graphic shape and rhythm of the sunset glow and radiating clouds stretching across most of the horizon, I flipped the camera into the vertical position to create a panorama of five separate panels, keeping the exposure in manual mode and using manual focus since the camera was having a difficult time focusing. I used my trusty two-stop split neutral density filter to even out the light values between the sky and reflections.
It’s always a good idea when concentrating your efforts in one direction, to see what is behind you. When I did, I saw an almost full moon rising just above the trees and since I felt there was nothing left for me with the wide-angle looking west, I switched to a 70-200mm zoom and concentrated on what was happening in the east. Although nothing really came out of the moon shots, when I turned around again looking west with the new eyes of the zoom, I could really focus on what was happening along the horizon at the 70mm range as seen in the image above. Nothing really great, but zooming in even closer to the horizon, nearer the 200mm range, I did several motion blurs narrowing in on several bands of color.
Since they were abstracts, I had additional freedom for creativity when they were processed afterward and ended up with two that seem to scream to be printed on canvas. Maybe these two will inspire me to give some canvas prints a try, but I will have to buy some canvas first.
After the motion blurs and the zoom lens still on, I was thinking the evening’s shooting had come to an end, but as I looked toward the south, there was still a hint of pastel in several bands of color along the horizon. Since this color was in such a narrow section of the sky, I had to zoom in quite a bit to fill the frame with the color, but the color alone was not enough and its reflection on the water was minimal. So I used the almost bare branches of a sycamore tree in silhouette to really make the colors pop and give a sense of place with a hint of the late fall season.
Most times I consider myself fortunate to get one decent image from the short time of a sunset. But, even though I tried my best and was basically unsuccessful that time, I was even more fortunate and especially enjoyed that evening because I happened to run into two other photographers who I knew and was able to experience it in their company. I got to know them both a bit better as we chatted all the while each of us was going about our business of photography. All too often, these short outings are a solitary experience, and although I can delve deeper into the emotional aspect of the moment when alone, sharing that time with others was a reward in itself.