For as long as I have been creating traditional style sunrises/sunsets, or have been silhouetting recognizable objects in an equally traditional fashion, I have also been shooting pure skies and clouds, or isolating subjects for silhouette in unusual ways. Sunrise/sunset is a versatile subject and abstractions are just as valid, and sometimes even more interesting than the norm.
Keeping it dark.
I have a personal preference with my more abstract sunrise/sunsets, for keeping a dark and moody atmosphere. Just like me, dark and moody. After holding my exposure down by taking a reading from a bright area of the image frame, I may add a small amount of contrast at home as well. I do not want these images to be what you would expect from everybody else. These semi-abstractions are my personal vision. They are what I see when I look at the scene. Unlike much of the time when out making images, I am not trying to look “deeply” into the scene. I am merely getting the essence of it, and that’s what I want to share. There might be silhouetted objects like branches, there might even be a shoreline, but it is that dark and mysterious feeling that intrigues me. A mystery with only a few clues.
Take notice in these first two, how dramatic rim light, can be to an image.
Telephoto sunrises can distort the sun itself so you may have to decide whether you want a literal or conceptual representation of the subject. The more you stop down the lens the more it will bend the sun’s gasses around the aperture. This distorted view turns this scene, gulls and all, into a surreal representation of a subject that is straightforward in reality. The sun, and a few birds.
I enjoy silhouetting known objects like a lighthouse and home, or some boats in a harbor, in the obvious way, but I have found that sometimes doing piecework photography and truly reducing those subjects to shapes that help fill the picture frame, will transcend the obvious while still letting viewers know what they are.
If not dark and moody, how about light and ethereal? This grove of trees was photographed in the morning fog and my exposure was garnered in the darker foreground right in front of me. Different days, different moods.
I came across these old White-tailed Prairie Dog images from a 2007 trip to Colorado. I hadn’t thought about them for a few years. I spent a couple of days with these guys and more fun I have never had. Earlier, I had watched a Swainson’s Hawk fly away with one of their relatives, so you can image why they spend so much time on the lookout, and why they often work in teams.
Notice that neither of these images has enough depth of field to cover both animals in focus. Even though they stand perfectly still for a second or so, 1/250th sec. was needed to arrest motion. That meant f stops of 5.6 and 6.3. Not a lot at 500mm. I made sure that the animal in front was sharp, and I let the one in the rear go soft. I managed some images the next day (brighter light) with more depth of field. Also the two animals were closer to being on the same plane. Both critters were sharp in those pictures. The truth is, I like these better. Especially the first one. I prefer it with the second animal drifting into softness. Super depth of field is not necessary for every image wildlife photographers make.
Moving water, especially waterfalls, provide a myriad of decisions for photographers. I do not even remember making this particular photo of Bond Falls in Michigan. It pays to look at any subject with an ever-changing vision. Instead of going for a cotton candy, soft, slow shutter speed effect on the water, or a drop stopping fast shutter speed water, I made the rare (for anyone) decision to split the difference and blur the water a little bit, and stop the action a little bit. What I do enjoy about this old picture is the combo of the white water in the midst of the dark water, and then all capped off with golden reflections from the near-by autumn trees. I always enjoyed altering my visions.
Notice that this is a telephoto shot. I used 210mm to visually compress the water flowing over the hill, and the background river. F14 was just enough depth of field to accomplish what I wanted.
This softer (both the water and the light) version of another section of falls was actually made 11 pictures earlier than the previous one of Bond Falls. In the case of these two pictures I’ll take the higher contrast mid-speed falls over this one, possibly because I have made so many like this.
I’ve made a handful of airplane images in my life, but I always enjoyed these old planes the best. I was making in-flight pictures of birds at the near-by Bong State Recreation Center when I ran out of birds. A mid-day siesta I believe. Just in time to save my day came one of man’s birds.
I’ve shown flower rimmed images of Mt. Evans Colorado’s Summit Lake many times, but I do not believe I’ve ever showed this flowerless shot. I wouldn’t trade this for the “with flowers” shots, but this one does have a cooler, and therefore different atmosphere. Those flowers were yellow and carried a very “warming” quality with them. You can never have enough variety, be it of subject, composition or personal treatment.
Have a great day and may your trails be happy ones. (a special thanks to Dale Evans and Roy Rogers.)