The recent weather has featured clear skies and cold mornings, ideal for misty shoots, but not for generating strong evening colour. However for this project a clear sky was a good subject with which to work, offering a smooth tonal gradation. The first set of photographs was taken from the center of the park in a space large enough to allow a clear view of the horizon in all directions:
West - South - East - North
For this sequence I set the camera to a manual exposure to ensure identical parameters for each shot and used exactly the same processing in Lightroom. The brightest direction is West directly into the sun as expected, this also provided the strongest variance from light to dark. East has the darkest a smoothest tonal variance, again as one should expect.
Turning to one of the goals of the project to assess the difference in sky tonality as the focal length varied I took three sequences of shots, the first at 15mm on my 7D (24mm Full Frame Equivalent), the second at around 50mm (80mm), and the last shot at 85mm (136mm):
In both cases I have shot into the sunset. Clearly there is much wider tonal range in the wide shots. The longer focal length images a smaller section of the sky and thus inevitably a smaller tonal range. However, the longer focal length enables better colour definition in the brighter part of the sky. A wide angle shot balanced for the light, renders the light close to the horizon almost white, however, in reality it has a strong red hint. The use of a telephoto enables a shorter exposure and thus better rendering of the colour. It also brings more attention to the detail of the silhouetted horizon.
The following two photographs taken last year in Indonesia illustrate this better. I took these two shots within minutes of each other at either end of the zoom range on the same lens used above, 15mm and 85mm:
The wide shot captures the grandure of the tropical sunset, however, only the telephoto can reveal the degree of colour variation in the sky. Both are attractive photographs and each has different qualities.
One aspect of this project that I was somewhat mystified by and struggled with was the idea of shooting a reflection of the sky on a cars bodywork, finding a suitable car and then getting the sky in the right place was frustrating and ultimately failed, this is the best I got:
However, I do understand the rationale for doing this, the softer graded light generates reflections that also contain that fine gradation in tone and brightness. To illustrate this I turned to a far better reflector than a car, a glass paneled building:
This shot reveals the range of tones in the sunset on the larger side of the building, but also a reflection of the light from the opposite direction. In direct sunlight this would not be possible, the light would either generate specular reflections with blown out highlights or a very much more constant lighting condition.
Dusk or dawn is an interesting time to create photographs, however, the aesthetic of the setting sun is not one that I am really very much interesting, it's OK for picture postcards or chocolate box tins, but I am not sure where it sits in art photography. I find the work I have been doing recently to be far more interesting, same light but used in a very different way to illuminate mist in the early morning air. The effect is also dramatic, but in a gentler more intimate way. Light is the fuel of photography and can be used in many different ways, I am learning that lesson now more than ever, this project helped to solidify some ideas I have be working on.
- Focal length has a dramatic impact on the tonality of a dusk shot, a wide angle captures greater variance, whilst a telephoto captures the finer tonality
- At dusk reflections are far better controlled and offer a greater range of brightness than daylight.