Sunset is one of the most amazing times to be taking photos. The sun, as it get’s low in the sky, becomes one of the most spectacular things in the heavens and it’s light is perfect for both portrait and landscape photography. With it’s brilliant amber, orange and red tones blanketing everything it’s easy to get caught up in its beauty and stop dead in your tracks. On our recent road trip to Crescent City this sunset was no exception.
There was a little bit of a fog in the sky when I got to the beach. Which helped make the sky look like it was on FIRE! It was nothing short of amazing. But then again beaches are amazing in general so it was no surprise. There was a little craggy point that overlooked the ocean that had literally 6 other photographers already on it. So I had no choice but to find another viewpoint. So I went down to the beach itself. I found a spot on a rock, which was a little bit precarious as the tide was on the rise. I was afraid if I stayed too long I would be swept off the rock all together. But it gave me a good vantage point to get this photograph.
I was afraid if I stayed too long I would be swept off the rock all together. But it gave me a good vantage point to get the shot I had in my head. As you can see by this shot, the water was rising and the longer I stood there the more I thought I would get swallowed up by the sea and miss the shot of this amazing sunset as it was being swallowed by the pacific. I knew I only had a few more minutes before I was going to find a different spot or worse, rejoin the photographer’s up on the bluffs.
So I snapped a few more shots as the foreground was getting darker and more silhouetted by the sun. Ultimately I decided that I really didn’t like this view and it wasn’t at all what I was hoping to photograph. I wanted something with character. Something a little surreal and almost ghostly. As I turned around to see where I could go to setup I saw one of the most amazing displays happening right behind me.
I saw this wonderful island and it was just bathed in beautiful warm light. So, I hopped off my rock and scurried across the black pebble beach and setup my tripod. I originally had my F/1.4 35 mm lens affixed to my camera. That’s a fantastic lens but the island seemed too distant to be interesting.
With the sun fading fast at this point, I quickly switched over to my 70 – 300 mm lens and added a two stop ND filter to it (don’t forget to take those off it will really mess up your shots the next day). You may be asking yourself, why would you add an ND filter to get a shot of fading sun? Great question. I asked myself the very same question when I did it. However, I think I have a great answer. I wanted the warm glows from the sunset (which was all but gone now as the sun had slipped beyond the horizon) that were spilling into the sky, but more importantly I wanted to blur the water to give it that surreal look to it. Even with the sun down there was too much light to do both without the ND filter.
With the ND filter I could slow my shutter enough to let the last bit of light build up on the rocks, blur the water and not overexpose the still fairly bright sky. It was a good call as it resulted in this amazingly beautiful shot. Next time you’re watching a beautiful sunset, turn around and take it all in because sometimes, and I do mean sometimes, the action could be happening behind you.