A Non-Gray Day, Finally

I have not posted for a week. It has been gray and cold around here and none of my photographic ideas have worked out. On Tuesday, I watched the sky all day from work and thought that I had a good chance that evening for some photography. The sky was not completely cloudy and it looked like there might be good conditions to try shooting at a location I have been thinking about.

The place is Inks Lake State Park. There is a hill of granite that overlooks the lake to the west. I have been wanting to come back to this place and see if I can find a nice composition for sunset on the horizon above the lake.

After work I headed for the lake and got there about 20 minutes before sunset. It was a cold Tuesday evening and there were few campers in the park and they all seemed to be in their RVs, so I had the park to myself and didn’t see another person the entire evening. I hiked up to my spot and I found that the sun is still setting a bit too north to be over the lake. I should have checked on Photopills to find the sunset, but I was excited to get out and shoot. I did wander around up on the granite and took a few shots. The photo below is shot just before sunset. I had hopes for the high striated clouds catching some warm light.

Granite overlook at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 20mm, f/5.6, ISO100, HDR

I wandered around a bit waiting for the sunset and found these little ferns or whatever living under a little cliff. I thought it might make an interesting picture. I got down low and tried to have the line of plants going off into the distance.

Some plants under a cliff of granite at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 24-120mm, f/4; 24mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO400

It was getting dark and I had the lens wide open at f/4 and focused on the foreground plants, so the background is not in focus. I couldn’t really increase the aperture much without really boosting the ISO. This was a spur of the moment shot and I didn’t take a lot of time to work it.

The sun eventually set behind a wall of gray clouds and I never got much color. There was a gnarly old tree that I wanted to try to get in the scene but I could not get an angle on it so it is out of the frame to the left. I didn’t really find a composition that I like from up here. There is a foreground tree that might look better when it gets leaves soon and it may look good when the sun sets more to the north across the lake. I will have to check on this location in May and June.

Granite overlook at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 17mm, f/5.6, ISO100, HDR

From up on the rocks I could see that there would be some nice reflections on the lake during blue hour. So, I climbed back down to get on the shore of the lake to take some long exposures and get some reflections.

In the below photo, I worked trying get this tree silhouetted with the sky and lake, but I could not get the entire tree in the photo even at 16mm and I was out of room to back up. This photo still turned out OK.

Tree silhouetted against sky and lake at blue hour at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 16mm, f/8, 30s, ISO100

I could see the colored bands in the sky would be reflecting in the lake, so I moved up past the tree to get more lake in the shot. I think that this turned out to be a much nicer and more balanced photo as the lake is not blocked and the viewer has somewhere to look. There are a couple of noisy geese in the distance next to a boulder in the lake. You can see that there was almost no wind as the branches are nice and still for 30 seconds.

Blue hour sky reflected in the lake at Inks Lake State Park in Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 35mm, f/4, 30s, ISO100

The above photos were shot with a 6-stop ND filter. I went back and forth with how much detail to leave in the shadows when I processed this in LightRoom. I wanted mostly silhouette, but I was worried that it would be too boring without some hint of detail.

I hiked back to my car, and as I was watching the sky it developed more warm color. I quickly drove to an empty camping spot on the lake shore and ran down to the water’s edge with my camera. It was so dark by now that I didn’t need an ND filter and the lake was nearly as smooth as glass anyway.

I took my first shot at 22mm and got a nice shot; see below.

Blue hour after sunset at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 22mm, f/8, 8s, ISO100

Looking at the above photo, I thought that I would rather have more of the overhanging tree branches to frame the horizon. So, I widened out to 16mm and took another shot. And this one I was very happy with on the back of the camera.

Blue hour reflection at Inks Lake State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm, f/4; 16mm, f/8, 13s, ISO100

The viewer is drawn to the warm colors on the horizon surround by blues and blacks. The long clouds and their reflection point to the sunset light. The silhouetted tree branches frame the scene. If I have a criticism, it is that I should have brought the camera forward or down just enough to get the tree branch out of the horizon on the far left. This scene will look a lot different in a month when these trees fill out.

Today it was back to near total cloud cover at sunset and there is rain and clouds in the forecast. I hope to get out a bit this weekend. Hope that you enjoyed my Inks Lake pictures. Leave a comment below if you like.


9 thoughts on “A Non-Gray Day, Finally

  1. Phenomenal photos. I especially like that last one with the blues and black. And I really don’t mind the branches as they cover the top portion of the photo nicely.
    Always enjoy seeing your work – so talented! πŸ˜ŠπŸ™πŸ½

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, interesting. Stitching a panorama in low light could get tricky I think. As an alternative, and assuming you’ve got a high enough resolution in the original image, then you could try just cropping it to something like 16×9. I’ve had some success with that approach in the past.


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