Sunset at Canyon Lake

After taking the foggy morning pictures at Canyon Lake, I decided to return for sunset. It wasn’t shaping up to be a fantastic sunset, but it was something to do.

Finding shorelines around the lake that I could easily access was a bigger problem than I had foreseen. Many of the parks were closed, which I found surprising as I expected people to be there for spring break. This particular shore line is part of a park that was closed with the road gated off, but I found that there is a hiking trail that goes through it. So I parked at the trailhead and hiked through the woods until I got to the park and then went down to the lake shore.

By the time I got there the sun was beginning to sink to the horizon, so I took a few handheld shots with a 70-200mm lens. I was probably shooting below the advisable shutter speed for handholding these focal lengths but I got a few that weren’t too blurry. Below is my favorite. It was shot at 105mm focal length with a 1/50s shutter speed.

Sun setting at Canyon Lake

The sun was setting farther to the left of frame than I thought it would. I should have gotten there about 5 minutes earlier and maybe I would have gotten the sun reflecting across the water. But what I got is not too bad and is quite colorful.

I did see that there were at least a few high clouds to grab a little color, so I set up down low at the edge of the water to take some long exposures and see if I could get the clouds reflected across the lake with the large stones in the foreground. The image below is a 30 second exposure using an ND filter. The long exposure completely smooths out the water and reflections and fortunately the clouds weren’t moving fast enough to blur very much. It is also shot at 16mm, which is quite wide, which allowed me to get very close to the foreground stones and exaggerate them a bit in the image.

Sunset at Canyon Lake

It was a very calm and quiet evening and there weren’t any boats out on the water to get in my shot. The water was mostly calm to begin with and was easy to smooth out with the long exposure. There was a person quietly fishing up the shore behind me and he seemed to be having a pleasant evening as well. The final image turned out nice with the color across the sky and water.

The technical details of the my shooting process were:

  • mount camera on a tripod low to the ground
  • frame and level image, lock focus, and get exposure without filter using aperture priority mode (remembering to pick an exposure with a shutter speed easy to mentally multiply by 1000)
  • attach the 10-stop ND filter
  • switch to manual mode and multiply previous shutter speed by 1000 (for instance 1000 x 1/50 = 20)
  • enable remote shutter release with 2 second delay
  • release the shutter remotely and within 2 seconds hang my hat off the back of the camera, covering the viewfinder to prevent light leakage
  • stand around and wait

Even with the 30 second exposure, I still ended up with a dark image as the light was quickly falling. I brought it up another 1.5 stops in Lightroom to get the final image.

Then it was a hike back up to the parking lot in near dark. The next day was cool and windy and I hiked around the bottom of the dam and took a few photos that I’ll post next time.

19 thoughts on “Sunset at Canyon Lake

    1. OK, I was using a 10-stop ND filter. This reduces the light getting into the camera by 10 stops. So, to get the same exposure you have to increase the shutter speed by 10-stops. A stop means doubling the shutter speed and 10 stops means doubling the shutter speed 10 times.

      Doubling 10 times is the same as multiplying by 2^10, 2 raised to the tenth power (2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2), which is 1024. I approximate this with 1000.

      The shutter speeds in the camera are indicated by fractions, like 1/100, 1/50, etc. To multiply by 1000, you just put 1000 in the numerator (1000/100 = 10, 1000/50 = 20, etc) and you get a division problem. I try to pick a shutter speed such that I can easily work that fraction in my head. I have an app on my phone called photopills that will do the calculation as well, but that is extra fumbling around with my phone.

      All this so that you can get an exposure a thousand times longer than without the filter so you can blur things that move, like water or clouds. It is difficult to frame, focus and judge exposure with the filter on, so I do this first without the filter and then put the filter on and adjust the shutter speed.

      I also have a 6-stop filter which means multiplying by 64.


      1. That makes sense. I’ve never used a ND filter. So if you are increasing the shutter speed to get the same exposure with the filter as without then why not just not use the filter?


        1. I wanted a longer shutter speed so that the water would be smoothed out and the reflection of the clouds in the water would be more defined. I couldn’t get a 30 second exposure that wasn’t over exposed without using a filter.


        2. If you look at the first picture above, which was shot with a 1/50 second shutter speed, you can see that the reflections of the sky are scattered by the rippling water. The long exposure of 30 seconds in the second picture averages out these ripples and you get a more mirror-like reflection.


  1. I love the shot with the sun, and rose-colored water. And good idea, using your camera as a hat rack, to stop light leakage. I’m just surprised it didn’t cause any camera shake, with only 2 seconds to hang it there. You must be very deft and quick at this maneuver.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is just a cloth ball cap and there was no wind so it lay on the back of the camera without moving. I should get a little eye piece blocker to put on, but I’d probably lose it.

      I have had a few photos where light bleed from the eye piece showed up in the long exposure but it was on bright days. I cover the eye piece now anyway to be safe.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No, I could see it sinking. I grabbed the long lens and had just enough presence of mind to turn on the autofocus and vibration reduction switches before I started shooting. Those switches were still in the off position from earlier that day.

          Liked by 1 person

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