Sunday afternoon I was off to Inks Lake State Park. I didn’t know what I would find to photograph there, but I wanted to get out and shoot anyway. It was a warm mostly sunny afternoon with a few high clouds and I thought that there was a chance of a nice sunset as well. And as I suspected, the park was packed with campers for the holiday week. The man at the gate told me they were booked up through next weekend. Spending Thanksgiving at the lake does sound appealing.
I headed down a hiking trail to some granite cliffs to scope out a different sunset vista than what I had tried before, but I got distracted before I made it very far by reflections in the calm lake. I stopped by an outcropping of rock into the lake and decided that this scene needed some long exposures to bring out the reflections on the far shore. So, I set up and waited for an opportunity between the kayakers.
In the photo below, a roughly arrow shaped rock on the left and a convenient con-trail in the sky point you into the scene. The late afternoon sun is low on the horizon out of shot to the left and shining a lot of golden light on the distant trees, accentuating their autumn colors.
I really had to do a lot of work in Lightroom on the above photo. First, the left side of the picture is a couple of stops brighter than the right and it really made it look like two different pictures, so I spent a lot of time filtering that side down while trying to make sure it blended well with the rest of the scene. There were also a lot of bird droppings on the foreground rock that I had to get rid of. The shadows needed a lot of boosting to bring out some color. And I had a lot of sensor dust to clean up. But I like the final product.
Farther along the shore away from the sun are a lot of trees and their reflections that I wanted do do something with. I decided on the crop below that is almost panoramic even though it is just a crop of a 35mm shot. There is a boulder in the foreground just below that I finally decided to leave out as it was kind of distracting. I just wanted the symmetry of the shoreline across the water. Below is a 15 second exposure to glass over the water and showcase the reflections.
Another heavily processed shot to keep the sky and trees exposed as the eye might see them. I spent a lot of time on white balance trying to the get sky and the trees to look natural. In the end I resorted to split-toning to apply more yellow to the shadows and blue to the highlights, and then adjusted the blue hue to match the other photos. Part of the fun of shooting with an ND filter.
I was also carrying my 150mm macro lens in case I saw a cool critter, but I instead used it to make a close-up of a particularly bright yellow tree across the water. As luck would have it, the 150mm lens had the same size filter thread as my other lens, so I could use the ND filter. Below is a 20 second exposure of a bright tree and its reflection.
I hiked down the trail a bit, trying to find a vantage point that would put the sunset above the lake. Gray clouds bunched up on the horizon and I thought that would be end of my sunset hopes. But, I decided to wait around and watched my clock to tell me when the sun had gone down. And I waited. I took the time to imagine what I would do if a cottonmouth or some other snake bit my leg while I was standing there. I decided on scream like a little girl and try to contact the park rangers.
I kept waiting. My tripod was set up on the squishy shoreline. There were some irritatingly loud teenagers nearby saying stuff that I didn’t want to hear. Was I ever like that? And the waiting continued.
The photo below was taken 10 minutes after sunset.
About 10 minutes after sunset, I began to see a little hint of orange in the gray clouds. I wondered if that was going to develop. The teenagers gave up on the sunset and left. The orange continued to intensify and was no longer just hinting. The sun found a way to shine underneath the gray clouds and the “second sunset” was roaring on the horizon. The photo below was taken 15 minutes after the sunset.
I took long exposures of the sky and its reflection split by the distant shore. The bright pink-orange colors only lasted for few minutes and by 20 minutes after sunset, they began to fade. I actually like the contrasted look of the fading orange against the dark gray in the clouds. The photo below was taken 22 minutes after the sunset.
If you look in the photo above, you can see Jupiter and Venus in the sky very close to each other. On this evening, the two planets were at their closest in the sky and soon followed the sun beyond the western horizon. Jupiter takes nearly 12 years to orbit the sun, so I don’t know when we will see such an alignment again.
I wanted a longer focal length for some of these shots, but I only packed with me a 16-35mm zoom and a 150mm prime. So, I had nothing between 35 and 150mm to choose from. I did mount the 150mm for a close-up of the far shoreline. This includes most of the sunset and some lights near the boat dock.
So many people go to see a sunset and they think that it is over when the sun passes beyond the horizon and then move on about their business. But the real color show can come on 15 to 20 minutes later and be much more impressive.
After stepping in the squishy muddy water, it was time to hike back to my car in the dark. It was a satisfying 30 minute drive back home after seeing such a nice sunset. Thanks for reading and leave a comment below.