Sunset and a Dry Pond

I had some time in the evening to run over to a neighborhood park to try to shoot a sunset scene. My plan was to go to a particular spot with a park bench and a tree that would have the pond in the mid-ground, hopefully reflecting a beautiful sunset. There were some high clouds in the sky about 20 minutes before sunset, so I thought that I had a good chance of making a nice photo.

Arriving at the park, I found that the pond was about half dried up. I haven’t been over here in a while, and I guess the summer has been hard on this pond. So, all I was going to get from my location was dried mud, and I had to abandon this plan. Below is what the pond looked like; there is usually more water. The place I had picked out was on the other side of the pond to the right where it was completely dry.

Mostly Depleted Pond at Devine Lake Park
Mostly Depleted Pond at Devine Lake Park

This was just a quick shot to show the level of the lake and was taken at high ISO (1600), but I like the way I accidentally got all the light on the long branch of the tree. I wish there was more water in the pond to complete the picture.

So, turning my attention to the sunset, I could see that my high clouds were mostly disappearing and there really wasn’t going to be much of a sunset show. I also didn’t have much of a foreground with the muddy lake bed so I had a recipe for boring photos.

There is a wooded area in the middle of the park with several old oak trees. I decided that these trees and their gnarly branches would be my foreground. So, I decided to try to shoot the sunset through the trees. Maybe the silhouette of the branches would give the illusion that the sunset was more spectacular than it really was, just concealed behind the trees. Let me know if you are fooled.

Sunset Through the Trees at Devine Lake Park
Sunset Through the Trees at Devine Lake Park

The above was a wide angle photo (16mm) with tree trunks on either side. I don’t think that I like the large tree trunks as they kind of dominate visually and maybe conceal the sky a bit too much.

In the photo below, I backed up and shot at 35mm focal length. This allowed me to just have the tree branches and let you imagine that the tree trunks must be somewhere off camera. It also reduces the amount that the sky in the background is compressed, so you get a better look at the clouds on the horizon.

Sunset Through the Trees at Devine Lake Park
Sunset Through the Trees at Devine Lake Park

Both of the above images are HDR merges of 6 or 7 photos. I mainly did this to preserve any detail in the clouds and sky that would be lost in a single exposure. I tried to keep the processing under control to make the photo look like what the eye would see, so the branches are still mostly silhouetted even though I could easily have cranked up their exposure.

In hindsight, there were some picnic tables scattered through out these trees and perhaps I could have included one in the photo to make it more interesting. Sort of, the park at the end of the day when the picnics are over kind of mood.

My original intent involved long exposures of the pond with a beautiful sky, so I packed an unused filter kit along. Maybe we’ll get some rain soon to fill up the pond again and I can return. As I was leaving, I saw a man heading toward the pond with a fishing pole; not sure what he was going to catch.

On the plus side, I showed up with a memory card and battery in my camera. It was also a pleasant evening temperature-wise and I was not harassed by any bugs. This is the closest thing that Leander Texas has to a body of water. It is getting to be that special time of year during which I can go take some photos at sunset and blue-hour without being out until nearly 10 PM. I may have to just drive out to one of the lakes for my photography pleasure.

Thanks for reading.

16 thoughts on “Sunset and a Dry Pond

    1. Well, the iPhone has an ‘HDR’ mode and I would guess that many of the Android phones do as well. I think that many camera have a mode that is similar to HDR, though I am not sure about the details.

      I do all of this with post processing. I take several images of the same scene with different shutter speeds by usually starting at a very short exposure and doubling it until I have gotten all the shadows. I then load all the raw files into Lightroom and use the photo merge feature that it has. Or I have a another HDR tool called Photomatix that I use for more detailed control. So, even if your camera doesn’t have HDR as an automatic feature, it is not that hard to do with your images on a computer.

      It is mainly useful for indoor, architectural photography, but I like to use it for sunsets because the sky is so contrasted with the landscape. It is easy to make a cartoonish mess of it if you like. I try to edit it to look as real as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, if you do, after you create the HDR merge file, you have a file with a lot more adjustment range than a normal raw file and you can really move the adjustment sliders around. So, sometimes it is nice to create a merge just to have the added adjustment range.

          If it is very windy, though, you can end up with a blurry ghosted mess.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. What intrigued me in the first photo of the sunset through the trees is that the smooth grasses are so smooth they almost look like water. Even though they aren’t reflective, the provide a nice contrast to the other details.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It is sometimes hard to find stuff to shoot around town. I am working on trying to come up with interesting photos of my town, the kind that you might put in a brochure. It is a suburb of Austin and it is not the most unique place in the world, but I am trying to be creative.


      1. LOL! Good luck! I bet you can do it. Sometimes the most ordinary things turn out to make great pics. I have a friend who will take pics of a bike just propped up against a building or of shadows. Somehow she makes them look cool. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It is kind of nice in the spring, and there are a lot of resident ducks at the pond to keep you entertained. A nice thing about being in a drier climate (I used to live down on the gulf coast) is that there really aren’t very many mosquitoes here to bother you at the park.

      Liked by 1 person

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