Just a silhouette

Just a silhouette

Last weekend I was out and about in Marshall and Washington Counties with my Dad looking for some new photographic opportunities.  Early in the evening it looked like the sunset was going to be on the plain side of things, but right as the sun was going down some clouds appeared and conditions improved substantially.  We were in unfamiliar territory and were having trouble finding an interesting spot to make some photographs.  I spotted a windmill on a side road and made a quick turn to check out it, but as we got closer we discovered it wasn’t going to work as a subject for us.  So we just kept going on down the road.  Not far from the windmill there was a short stretch of some interesting trees right on the side of the road, so we decided to stop and try our luck.  I’ve always been fascinated with the shapes of trees, especially in the fall and winter after they have dropped their leaves and you can really see all the twists and turns of their trunks.  There is something stoic about trees.  They seem to have a lot of character and I like to think that their shapes reflect their ‘personalities’.   The photograph above was the tree that initially attracted my attention.  I really liked the shape of the tree and the way it seemed to follow the clouds in the sky.

 

Bent, but still standing
Bent, but still standing

This next tree also had an interesting shape.  To me, both of these trees look like maybe they have had a bit of a rough time, but they are still hanging in there.  If these trees were people I would imagine they would have some interesting stories to tell about making it through some tough situations.

 

Standing Tall

Standing Tall

This last tree looked like it was standing tall and proud to me.  Maybe it hadn’t seen the tough times the other two trees had?  The sunset was starting to lose some color at this point, but was still interesting.  I made a couple of photographs of this tree both with and without showing the fence at the bottom.  I liked this one the best and overall I think the fence added more visual interest to the photograph.  Technically silhouettes are easy photographs to make. Exposures are normally straight forward when shooting into the sunset, the bright sun/sky is going to cause your camera to underexpose the foreground, which is what you want.   However, the first silhouette in this post I increased the exposure by 1 stop to lighten up the sky a bit.  One thing to watch out for when shooting silhouettes is how your subject is in relation to the horizon line.  Anything below the horizon is going to come out dark, even though you can probably see detail in that area with your eyes.

The sunset lost color quickly and I had to shoot fast; these photographs were all made (and a few others) within a span of just over a minute.  Not much time to fiddle around with my camera, it does pay to know your camera well.  As we were headed back home Dad and I were talking about how fast the color had left the sunset.  Mother nature had a surprise for us though.

 

The encore
The encore

About 10 minutes after the color had left the sky and we thought sunset was over, the sky turned a brilliant red.  It was amazing (I’m lucky I didn’t drive off the road I was so fascinated by the color that had suddenly appeared!).  Fortunately we quickly found a great spot to photograph this ‘encore’.  We passed a side road that opened up onto a beautiful view of the surrounding hills.  The photograph above was my favorite from the second half of the evenings sunset performance.  This is 3 exposures combined into an HDR image using Photomatix.  It was getting pretty dark at this point so there was no way it would be possible to expose both the foreground and the sky in one shot unless I used a split neutral density filter.  To create the HDR, I bracketed my exposures by 1 stop.  It was a completely still evening so I knew the exposures would line up perfectly for the HDR.  If it had been windy I would have gotten a split ND filter out and used it.

What a beautiful end to the day. It was perfectly calm, mild temperatures and as we were photographing the evening’s encore we could hear coyotes off in the distance.  Great music to make some landscape photographs by!