This will be a bit of a longer post to recap this great Summer sunset. I also want to point out that there will not be any posts for the next few days as I am driving up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to try and capture the incredible color up there.
Today, I wanted to share the last image from a spectacular sunset that took place back in mid-August and explain some of my thought process at the time. To refresh your memory, for a stretch of 3-4 nights in August, we had been getting these incredible deep pink and purple sunsets. However, I hadn’t been able to photograph any of them and was left to watch them from the kids’ bedroom windows while putting them to bed. On August 21st, I had plans to take my son to a sailing camp activity around dinner time and made arrangements for my wife to pick him up so I could go out and shoot. I was determined to get ‘out there’ no matter what….and then the day started off with rain.
Granted, the rain let up in mid afternoon and we had a pleasant warm day. As we headed off to the activity, I noted a large gray band of clouds making their way toward us. They were still there when I met with my wife and I almost called it a night and headed home. Instead, I forced myself to cross the causeway and head for a spot on the neck. I had shot a great sunset from the Public Way on Parker Lane earlier in the Summer and decided to try a new vantage point so I headed to the huge pier at the Pleon Yacht Club.
As the sun dropped below the horizon, the clouds looked like they were breaking up quite nicely and I got my first solid shot with a sunburst as the sun dipped below the clouds. As I explained when I originally shared this image, a sunburst can be captured by lowering the aperture of the lens (in this case to f/16) and trying to get the sun’s light partially blocked (in this case by trees across the harbor). First image taken at 7:24pm.
The sun disappeared beyond the horizon and I waited to see what would happen to the golden light. I had been looking toward Abbot and then turned my head to find these incredible pinks and blues over the Lighthouse. The harbor was a bit choppy as you can see from the photo above so I decided to smooth it out with a long exposure. In this case, 1 second at f/11 gave just enough time for the water to calm and not enough for the boats to move and become blurry. I took a number of photos to try to control for all the variables and make sure I captured the peak of light. This was taken at 7:41pm.
The color was fading quickly after this image was taken and I turned around again to face Abbot Hall. Now I found that the wispy clouds that were there just 20 minutes earlier had formed streaks in the sky that reflected deep pink and purple light. I decided to start off focusing on this house overlooking the harbor and again went for a longer exposure to calm the water – this time f/16 at 1.3 sec. This was taken at 7:44pm.
And this next one was shot 2 minutes later. I decided to pull back a bit to include Abbot Hall. As you can see, the light was very different across the harbor and changed the scene quite a bit. I preferred the image above but the one below places this more firmly as a Marblehead image with the iconic building punctuating the skyline. I adjusted my settings to help freeze the boats and allow some movement in the water by using f/11 for 0.6 sec. You’ll also notice one item in the foreground that is present in one image and not in another…. Taken at 7:46pm
The light was fading fairly quickly at this point but Mother Nature had one more trick up her sleeve. A deep red set in over the clouds immediately above Abbot Hall and I turned to compose a shot with the skyline more prominently displayed. I chose to leave the boats as silhouettes to focus the eye on the colors of the fading sun. Shot at f/16 for 1.6 sec. Taken at 7:52pm
So there you have it. Five solid images taken over a span of 30 minutes in one location but with very different compositions. All on a night that could have fizzled. If I can leave you with any parting thoughts and points to consider:
1. Never give up on a planned shoot – you’ll never get the shot if you don’t leave the house to try
2. Don’t forget to keep looking around (and over your shoulder) as the light develops to see if a different vantage point might work better
3. Use different compositions to focus the viewer’s eye
4. Use leading lines (as in today’s image with the clouds forming a diagonal aimed at the house) to draw the eye through the frame.