Sunset Success

After the events of our last trip to the coast, where I feel I missed an opportunity to take some great photos – I was keen to get some good new photographs under my belt.

The forecast was good for some sunset photography, so we set off for the reservoir with the aim of doing some long exposures. This was also going to be my foray into full manual – I had been using auto ISO up until now. I’ve started to feel recently that the auto ISO is making me lazy, and stopping me exploring the full potential of any given situation.

We left a little earlier than usual, as the nights are drawing in, with sunset forecast at 7.25pm – meaning the hills around the reservoir would probably give sunset at around 7.15pm. I also wanted to arrive in plenty of time to scout around a bit, and find some good compositions, as this had been my biggest mistake at the coast a few days ago.

We arrived in plenty of time, and set off anti-clockwise, as this gave us a view across the reservoir of the sunset and the reflections of the clouds.

We stopped at the first clearing, and I fired a couple of shots – one of the sun reflecting in the water, the other of a group of canoes that I thought looked good with the strange clouds we had.

Sun Reflection – 18mm – f11 – 1/1000th – ISO140
Canoes – 18mm – f11 – 1/320th – ISO160

We continued walking after this, I was keen to get to an area I had visited before to see what the scene looked like. On route I found a nice piece of wood that fallen from a tree, it was covered in green fungi of some sort, and I thought the colours and the shape would allow some great Lensball shots later. I carried it at arms length in case any critters were living inside and decided to crawl up my arm!!

When we arrived at the location I had in mind, the conditions weren’t quite ready for the long exposures, so I decided to try a few shots with Lensball and his new perch. These were taken using the tripod to support the branch and Lensball, and shooting handheld. With these shots I elected to stay with f11, instead of going to f7.1 (which is my usual go to for Lensball) as I was trying to introduce some more detail into the background – i’ve started to notice a lot of my Lensball shots have severe background blur – usually the light doesn’t allow me to play with aperture as I need shutter speed to get the shot, but it’s something to work on from now on.

Lensball – 24mm – f11 – 1/60th – ISO160
Lensball – 36mm – f11 – 1/60th – ISO160

After this I got the camera set up on the tripod with the ND filter attached, and took a test shot with a 5sec exposure – I wasn’t entirely sure the positioning or the exposure time was right though.

Test Shot – 18mm – f18 – 5sec – ISO100

I decided to change the position, and lower the tripod to get the camera lower to the water. I liked this position a lot more.

Second Test Shot – 18mm – f18 – 4sec – ISO100

Now I was happy with the position, I just needed to wait for the sunset to develop. As it began to colour up, I lengthened the exposure slightly by changing the aperture, and took another shot. The wind was still a bit breezy at this point, and it wasn’t giving me the reflection I wanted even with the long exposure. I did find in post editing, that I really liked the photo after it was cropped to balance the sky/water.

Breezy Still – 18mm – f22 – 8sec – ISO100

The breeze dropped a bit more – so I tried another shot soon after. The light had dropped further, so the exposure needed to lengthen again. The reflection was better in this shot, but the bank of cloud was stopping the colours in the sky from developing nicely.

More Colour Required – 18mm – f22 – 13sec – ISO100

It seemed after this, that the colours were developing in the sky round to my left – away from the direct sunset. I re-positioned and took a quick test shot without the ND filter to see what we had.

Test Shot – 18mm – f16 – 1/25th – ISO100

I was pleased with the colours, and the reflections, so decided to affix the ND filter once more and see what a long exposure would yield.

Long Exposure – 18mm – f22 – 10sec – ISO100

I was really pleased with the shot, it was exactly what I was hoping for. Now I just needed to wait to see how the sunset developed and take some more shots, constantly adjusting the settings to deal with the changing light. I did decide the longer exposure was moving the clouds a little too much, and ruining the refection, so I tried a slower shutter – I adjusted the aperture to facilitate this.

Slower Shutter – 18mm – f13 – 3sec – ISO

Again – I really liked the results of that shot, so decided that I would be better now to move again – as taking too many shots in one place is another thing I wanted work on.

I moved further up the bank, away from the waters edge. I found myself well off the path, standing in long wet grass, with slugs everywhere – but it did give me a different angle – and a wider composition where I could see some foreground, and more of the sky.

In With The Slugs – 18mm – f10 – 1/40th – ISO100.

After that shot I decided to move completely. The light was fading fast, so we needed to start walking back towards the car. When we reached the first clearing where I had photographed the canoes from earlier, I could see a lovely reflection composition, so decided to have one last go. There was a couple sat on the bench just along further, eating fish and chips – and it was honestly all I could think about after I smelt it – i’m always hungry!!

There was an Oast House on the far bank, and lots of colours – so again I decided on a test shot to see what it looked like on the back of the camera.

Test Shot – 18mm – f10 – 1/20th – ISO100

I was pleased with what I saw – so on went the ND filter to try some more long exposures. I decided to push the envelope of my camera a little – and extended the shutter to 30 secs. I had to change the aperture again to facilitate this.

30 sec Exposure – 18mm – f22 – 30 sec – ISO100

I didn’t notice at the time, but the lens had started to get condensation during the longer exposures – the grass was soaking by this point, so I should have probably realised. I took two more shots – the last of which was a shot looking further down the lake from my position.

Both of these were affected by the spots of condensation – I leave it for you to decide if its adds to, or ruins the shots – I kind of like the effect to be honest – but will try to avoid it in the future.

Spots 1 – 18mm – f22 – 20 sec – ISO100
Spots 2 – 18mm – f22 – 25sec – ISO100

The light had gone by this point – so we headed back to the car feeling satisfied, but a little hungry!!

It had been a successful evening – I was really pleased with coming off of auto ISO, and pleased I had used my time wisely and thought a lot about my settings and the compositions. I had no issues with focus today either. I found if I focused the shot before I added the ND filter I was able to use auto focus with no issues – I will however need to work on this for any upcoming night photography I want to try.

Update – after speaking to some photographer friends, and going back through all the photos from the night – I can see that what I thought was condensation on the lens in the long exposure shots, was actually tree sap on the ND filter. I picked this up mid shoot, when taking photos from under a tree – one to watch out for in future!!

6 thoughts on “Sunset Success

Add yours

    1. Thank you – yes, well worth the investment, allows a whole new perspective and creativity. Look forward to seeing the results if you get one. Let me know if you need any tips of help with it – thanks again for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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