Same Scene - Different Light
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gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9219
Country: United States

I photographed along the California coast above Santa Cruz last Saturday, on a day when the light looked particularly unpromising in the afternoon. I'm sharing these two photographs because I think the illustrate some important (to me, anyway!) things about subjects, timing, and light.


1. "Coastal Bluffs in Sunset Light"






The light in this first one is real. In fact, I had to desaturate areas of the cliffs in posts, believe it or not. It is always fun to be on the coastal bluffs in this section of the California coast - even on a day like this one when the light seems unpromising. When I arrived, much earlier in the afternoon, the atmosphere was filled with a dull haze and a weak weather front was arriving from the north and blocking the light from the west. However, as long as nothing closer by blocks the horizon, it is possible that light may arrive for a brief moment as the sun moves below the offshore edge of the clouds before dropping to the horizon. If this happens, there can be a moment of beautiful light just before the the sun is gone. You can never count on this, but if it looks possible I'll often try to be in place for it. It did happen on this evening, and there was intensely warm and colorful light on the bluffs (with the much less brilliant light on the clouds) for perhaps a minute or less.


2. "Davenport Bluffs, Dusk"







The light in the second photograph is also real... but you just cannot see it with your eyes! This photograph was made from very nearly the same spot, but long enough after sunset that it was becoming difficult for me to see. (Making my way back to the car after I put my gear away was a challenge, as I had left my headlamp behind.) It was dark enough that the exposure time was getting up around a half minute. The light changes in all sorts of interesting ways by this point in the evening - it becomes distinctly blue, it is soft and diffused since it comes from a large area of the sky, and subtle color effects that are almost impossible to see - like the pink tones in the clouds - can be captured by the camera.

Dan


dsjtecserv
Registered: May 09, 2010
Total Posts: 1544
Country: United States

Dan, I not only really like both, but appreciate the illustration of something I've come to learn, which is to stay on site and keep shooting well into twilight. I think the second is actually more "special" for the reasons you give, and also because it represents a scene fewer people see or appreciate. Everyone is familiar with brilliant sunsets (and we still rightly appreciate them!) but not so much with deep twilight, especially coupled with long exposure effects. So while both are visually arresting, I find the second more thought provoking, and it holds my attention a bit longer.

Incidentally, my headlamp is an integral part of my photo backpack load, so I always have it. It's making sure that the batteries are fresh that I keep forgetting!

Dave



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9219
Country: United States

Dave, it turns out that the second photograph is my favorite among these two as well. :-)

Dan



philtax
Registered: Dec 23, 2004
Total Posts: 3051
Country: United States

Hi Dan,

I always appreciate your descriptions of the techniques and strategies that you employ in your work and that is true here as well. For me, the first shot really pops. The second, on the other hand has different virtues that reward a longer look. I like the inclusion of a lot of sky in both.

Phil



DonH
Registered: Mar 23, 2003
Total Posts: 10069
Country: United States

#2 for me, no question. I think that the wider FOV also helps it. Well done.

+1 on inclusion of a headlamp in my pack.



dswiger
Registered: Feb 24, 2006
Total Posts: 6324
Country: United States

Like them both, maybe #1...
Is the lower left where there used to be an arch??
Headlamp, √
Dan



JimFox
Registered: Jan 11, 2005
Total Posts: 37570
Country: United States

Hey Dan,

Now for me, I like #1 the best, though I would like it still desaturated just a bit more. Both are cool shots though, and a good illustration of the effect of the changing light on a subject. Good work.

Jim



helenica
Registered: Mar 23, 2012
Total Posts: 1449
Country: Netherlands

Two nice shots and a photography lesson as well! Great work.



Scott Kroeker
Registered: Jan 10, 2008
Total Posts: 3689
Country: Canada

Some of my personal favourite photos are taken after sundown during that time of day. I also have some burning sun photos that straight out of the camera the colours are blazing. Mother nature can sure deliver some delicious colours and light. Love it when I can be there to capture it.



ckcarr
Registered: Dec 02, 2006
Total Posts: 5756
Country: United States

I like number 1 better.

Seems to me that desert sandstone needs either good light, or reflected light. Otherwise it becomes a muddy brown.. I've never had much luck after sunset. The 1/2 hour before dawn is a different story as the sky canopy seems to lighten up and reflect...



teked
Registered: Sep 06, 2006
Total Posts: 6893
Country: United States

Really like this one, Dan. Your perseverence was most certainly rewarded.

Cheers,
Ed



crfrey71
Registered: Nov 14, 2004
Total Posts: 773
Country: United States

Looking for that nudist strolling the beach.



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9219
Country: United States

To those who commented on the saturation of the first one, I'll likely make a test print before desaturating the sun-lit bluffs, but I also think that the intensity in the red channel there in the current rendering may still be a bit of a problem.
Very intense red (and nearly red) tones constitute a bit of an "Achilles heel" with digital, as it is very easy to over-saturate the red channel. In this case, the histogram shows that the red channel is short of over-saturation, but my eyes tell me something else when I look very carefully. What I've done at this point is create a saturation layer in CS6 that is perhaps 20 points desaturated, hide the layer, and they "paint in" desaturation on the brightest portions of the bluffs. Prints tend to look a bit less saturated than web images, so the test print will tell. (The print will also probably render the sky slightly darker, which is fine.)

crfrey71: Actually... I've encountered that situation more than once. One of the most memorable, in a very funny way, was when shooting along a beach just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge quite a few years ago. I showed up with my bag of gear, my camera on my big tripod, and a long lens on the camera and started marching down the beach toward the spot that I had scoped out for the view I wanted. Didn't notice anything unusual at first - just the usual collection of families and others having fun at the beach. I think I more or less put my head down and and walked quickly to my destination, not paying much attention to my surroundings. When I got almost to my location I looked up to find that... I had apparently strolled onto the clothing-optional section of the beach... with my long lens and camera gear. Boy, was that awkward!

My sense at this point is that the first, sunlit image produces the most initial visual impact... but the second one may have more potential to evoke some mystery.

Thanks for all of your comments!

Dan



crfrey71
Registered: Nov 14, 2004
Total Posts: 773
Country: United States

Dan,

Forgot to say that I love both renditions. Hard for me to pick which one I like better.

My nudist reference was that I think I know where this is, but I shot it from the other direction. My shot was a lonely nudist strolling the beach, but made for great scale. The nudist was very small and you can't make anything out, except he had no clothes on and was surrounded by these huge bluffs. But, that's Santa Cruz for you.



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9219
Country: United States

crfrey71 wrote:
Dan,

Forgot to say that I love both renditions. Hard for me to pick which one I like better.

My nudist reference was that I think I know where this is, but I shot it from the other direction. My shot was a lonely nudist strolling the beach, but made for great scale. The nudist was very small and you can't make anything out, except he had no clothes on and was surrounded by these huge bluffs. But, that's Santa Cruz for you.


Indeed!

I think you might be thinking of a different beach that is a bit further south, though there are quite a few of informally "clothing optional" beaches along this stretch of the coast, and no one really seems to make a big deal about it. Of course, on a cold and windy late-autumn evening, most people are wearing lots of clothes out here!

Dan