Quick Shot: Spectacular Sunset II

Sometimes I can't pick just one photo to share the story. In this case, it took me two photographs to tell the story of this sunset!

(If you missed the previous photo, check it out here

In the previous post about the first photograph, I told the story of behind the sunset, so I'll spend some time in this post discussing the technical details. Both sunset photographs were taken with the Nikon D800 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I didn't change any camera settings between the shots, just my body position.  

If you've ever tried to take a sunset photograph, then you probably know that it's almost impossible to get a foreground subject properly illuminated and not blow out the colors of the sunset. You generally can get either the foreground OR the background (sunset) in perfect exposure, but not both. To solve this problem, photographers can use several tricks. 

The first is to use a graduated filter that is darker on top than on bottom. This filter tries to darken the background to "trick" the camera into an exposure that properly exposes both the background and foreground. The trick is, you have to have said filter handy and they don't always work the best.

Another method is to bracket your exposures and merge them together. If you're not familiar with bracketing, it's a technique where you take several images in series.... say 3. The first would be correctly exposed, the second underexposed and the third overexposed (usually in full or half stop increments). You could then take elements from each photograph and merge them, or combine the series into an HDR image (high dynamic range).  

I didn't use either of these methods to get this shot. In fact, the work in Photoshop was pretty minimal!  

The D800 has an amazing dynamic range, so I knew that I could pull shadow detail from the foreground back out in post production. As a result, I set the camera to have an exposure compensation of -1/2 stop and exposed for the sunset sky. The image was very dark in the foreground grass, but that was an easy fix. Using the adjustment brush in Adobe Camera Raw, I lightened the exposure only on the grassy areas to make the foreground visible. I didn't want to overdue it - the focus was supposed to be the sky - but I still wanted the viewer to enjoy the foreground grass.

The only other adjustments in Photoshop were to crop and remove some sensor dust. Pretty easy! 

Don't forget that you can purchase this print as a limited edition from my website.