Last Wednesday, our little photo group met up to shoot a sunset. The initial place we met was rather uninteresting, so we drove up the hill in search of a different spot. A good decision.
We were up above the Simi Valley, and had expansive views in all directions. To the north, the mountains and plains caught the rays from the setting sun. To the south, the busy 101 provided light trails to contrast the twinkling of the city lights. To the east, Santa Susana Pass gave light trails if the exposure was long enough. To the west, the sun was setting, and spread out over the land, sculpting hills and fields, casting long shadows on rocks. Where we were also had some trails, old oak trees, rocks, and fences – what this area must have looked like before the building booms of the 60s began.
I packed the Tamron 17-50mm lens, which is great for general and landscape photography, the Tamron 70-300mm, and the Kiron 30-80mm varifocal. The final and only lens used was the Kiron lens, which is a manual focus lens from the 1980s. All my exposures were manual, from f/stop to aperture to focus. What I should have brought along was my flash – I had misplaced my remote for it, so the flash stayed at home. I could have used it for lighting the foreground in some shots.
Doing a total shoot without depending on any technology except my eye and what the camera says is a good exposure is stepping back in time. I really enjoyed the slowness, and the fact I needed to consider so many elements. In the forefront of my mind were a few major elements: composition and placement of focal points and areas of interest. In each frame, I tried to look at everything in the lens, moving from corner to corner, observing shadows, light spots, lines in the landscape, perspective. It is not really hard to do, per se, but it is hard to do it quickly. Becoming conscious of these bits and pieces eventually develops habits and trains the eye and mind; in turn, this will work in my favor as I continue this practice. I can imagine this will work in quick-changing situations – having an eye to anticipate and prepare.
Above you can see the evolution of the final picture. The very top one is a jpg, straight out of the camera. The middle one is with some push of the color. The sky was really quite lovely, and in retrospect, maybe I will go in and re-do the picture to keep that cerulean, rather than the ultramarine sky of the bottom picture.
Anyway, I couldn’t figure out why the middle picture kept bugging me, and then I looked again, and saw that the bright yellow spot in the middle tilted down, toward the right – it just wasn’t level. In Lightroom, I rotated the picture ever so slightly, and was much happier. In the bottom, final image, I pushed the yellows and the greens and used the gradated filter in LR, as well as used Viveza 2 to create a bit more zing in different areas. I eliminated the spots (on the lens or the sensor – need to check) in the sky using Photoshop, and then Faststone and Photoscape for resizing, framing, and signature.
Compositionally, the lines and the light is what caught my eye. The warmth of the sun on the slopes, along with their curvy lines was a nice contrast to the diagonals of the fore and middle ground. The verticals of the weeds in the very front of the picture played nicely against curves and diagonals. I think this is why the downward angle of the middle picture bugged me – the horizontal wasn’t there, and it is in the final image. Instead, it is also a diagonal, and was one diagonal too many.
I am not displeased with this picture. In post-processing the goal was to re-create the golden cast of the sunset on everything – that evanescent glow never stops fascinating me. My hope is that the image does not look fake – but it could, depending on the monitor.
The above image is the middle one in the grouping above, straightened, and post-processed pushing the warmth of greens, yellows, and oranges. Once more, sky spots removed. Then framing and signature added.
And, I just realized now why having an electronic photo frame is not a bad idea! Just a photo album in a different format. Maybe I’ll go buy one . . .