It was Sunday afternoon and I went for walk and I looked at the clouds as I often do and eventually got the notion that there could be a fantastic sunset. So, I turned around and headed back home to grab my camera backpack and head to the river. I wanted to get to the river early enough to check out the water level and scout out a few vantage points, but I always come back to this exposed stone on the river bottom.
The clouds were long mid-level clouds that echoed the shape and path of the river from this location. So, I set about trying to make that reflection work with the river bed. The below image is early before the sun was setting and gives you an idea of my initial view and ideas of the scene. It is a single exposure shot at 16mm focal length.
I then noticed the grooves in the river bed and worked on getting the cloud reflections to connect with these grooves. The clouds curve off toward the horizon as does the river and stone. The image below was taken approximately 7 minutes before actual sunset and the clouds were beginning to catch a lot of of warm light from the side and I was getting excited about how this would look in a few minutes. The image below is a single exposure shot at 16mm focal length.
The color continued to develop and I continued to shoot. I was concerned that 16mm might be a bit too wide and leave the clouds compressed in the distance, so I got down lower and shot the image below at 24mm. This image was shot at 6 minutes before sunset, and it turns out it was at the apex of the color in the clouds.
To edit these images, I started with Adobe Vivid in Lightroom and then adjusted the exposure of the shadows and highlights. Then I worked on the saturation and luminance of the of the warm tones to get them to sing. I also masked off the sky and adjusted the contrast to bring out the texture in the clouds. I found the foliage on the river banks to be far too intensely green for my taste, so I reduced the green saturation and luminance. I did have a lot of fun editing these images.
The sun set on time and all the color went away. Often the color will come back 5 or 10 minutes after sunset as the sun illuminates the clouds from below, but not on this day. I waited around until 20 minutes after sunset watching the sky grow more and more gray. I actually went home thinking that I didn’t capture much and didn’t even look at my images until the next evening. The image below was shot at 12 minutes after sunset.
I can’t believe I was the only one in this spot on a Sunday evening enjoying the beautiful scene, but it was nice to have the place to myself.