Special Light- When the Sun Goes Down!

Special light is what photography is all about. As a large format landscape photographer, it can mean as much, if not more than the subject matter itself. Below are three new images that exemplify one type of special light I have really enjoyed capturing, the mystical light that we find when the sun goes down.
(descriptions are above each image, as the conditions varied with each)
 
“Twilight Illumination, Grand Canyon”
Several weeks ago my son, Noah, and I took a quick five day trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. My hope was to capitalize on thunderstorms that were forecast for that time period, which could create very dramatic lighting conditions. Well, most mornings and evenings were clear, with harsh hazy light. So, on our next to last night there, when everyone else left because the sun had gone down, I waited in anticipation for the even painterly light of dusk. Standing on an amazing pillar of rock at the edge of the canyon made me a bit nervous, but the thrill of creating a painting with my large format camera was worth the anxiety. I metered off of the rock in the middle of the image, doubled the exposure knowing that the sun was dissappearing and the light was fading, and set my timer for 16 minutes. I was able to capture one exposure on Fuji Provia 100 speed 4×5 inch transparency film before it was dark.  Although this can be risky, when I compose a great image, I want to be able to print it very large with great detail. The fact that I have real consequences to my actions by using this equipment has really caused me to take great care with each and every image I create. This amazing light, and the mood it creates in my images,  is all the motivation I need to keep getting out there.

A 15-minute exposure, started 20 minutes after sunset, creates a painterly image which retains fine detail and takes on an other-worldly atmospheric glow.

 “Golden Gate Sunset, Baker Beach”

Here is a great example of beautiful sunset light bathing the clouds with the entire foreground in shade. I used my 4×5 inch film camera, a 210mm Rodenstock lens, Fuji Provia 100 speed transparency film and a Singh-Ray 3-stop soft graduated split ND filter. The split filter held back the light in the sky enabling me to expose for the foreground with a relatively even and dramatic light. The 45 second exposure enabled the crashing waves of the rising tide to soften and give the water a more dream like quality. I much prefer the real look of the shaded areas to the artificial look of HDR images. This is a personal choice, but I am finding that the slight imperfection of traditional large format film images is one of the qualities that I enjoy about them. As in nature, sometimes perfection is found in the imperfection.

Slow film speed, a small aperture and a split ND filter on the sky enabled me to extend the exposure and create a softer feel with the rough surf in this sunset image.

 “Purple Tide, Newport Beach”

This is an image I had envisioned for quite some time, and was able to create this summer. While on vacation in Newport Beach, I took the opportunity to scout the pier there in Newport and had time to make this happen one evening. I used my Fuji GX617 panoramic film camera, a 90mm lens and Fuji Provia 100 speed transparency film for my one exposure. I metered on the sand to give me a neutral reading, added 1/2 stop to compensate for the light color, and allowed the dark areas to remain fairly dark, but retaining a little detail. Given the fading light (I started the exposure after the sun had set) I added about 75% to the exposure time. This is important, as the light diminishes throughout the exposure as the sun drops further below the horizon. Obviously the dreamlike color that the film records with such long exposures in low light is beautiful. However, my favorite part of an image like this is the “foggy” look of the water. The tide was coming in and waves were crashing all around me. The long exposure recorded all this chaotic motion as a misty fog, which softens and warms the feel of this type of image.  Amongst all of this soft color and feel, the architecture of  this older pier ties the image together with structure and depth.

A very long exposure well after sunset creates an ethereal mood with well saturated color, and a “foggy” look on the moving water.

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This entry was posted in Golden Gate Bridge, Grand Canyon, Newport Beach, San Francisco, Sunset, Twilight, Uncategorized.

4 Comments

  1. Komkrit September 3, 2010 at 1:51 am #

    Great summer photos!!! There are all beautiful and full of meaning. Thank you for sharing Jon.

    Komkrit.

  2. Nick September 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Nice work Jon. The “Golden Gate Sunset, Baker Beach” composition is great and a relaxing peace is achieved from the rough waves through your long exposure. My college is about an hour from Newport and I’ve had my eye on a different composition of that same peer. I’ll see if I can get it in the next month or so. Thanks so much for sharing your gallery with my family and me on Friday and for this blog.

  3. Lars Daniel January 8, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    The bridge: Wow!
    I will follow your blog.

  4. admin January 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I hope you enjoy the images and the stories behind them.