Sunset Photos – No Sky Replacement

Thursday evening there was finally a cloud or two in the sky and I thought I might get some nice photos so I went hiking at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. I initially hiked up the Rimrock trail to some overlooks to see what the view looked like, but I didn’t find it very compelling and I wanted to do something a little different anyway. I eventually wandered up the Shinoak trail a little ways and found an old tree branch lying among some stones in the grass. I thought it might make and interesting subject in front of the sky full of clouds to the west.

The below photo was shot about 30 minutes before sunset at 14mm focal length, so it is very wide and close to the stone and branch. I think this photo might work better later in the year when the grass has turned golden for the late fall, but before it turns gray for the winter.

I had passed by a bunch of purple flowers on the way up and intended to be back down to photograph them against the hiking trail if the sun ever made it out of the clouds again. The sun never did reappear, but I took a few nice photos anyway. I would love to have more light on the flowers, but this is about how it looked ten minutes before sunset. The trail leading off into the distance and the sky do look nice.

This trail leads back down to the little water fall and stone step crossing of the creek. I was expecting the sun to just disappear without any drama, so my plan was to stop and take a photo for black-and-white to show off the contrast in the sky and then head on up to the parking lot. And I did take a picture about a minute before sunset that I thought made a decent black-and-white image.

The sky was almost completely gray at this point and I packed up my camera and tripod and turning around I saw a brilliant orange cloud lit up in the east. So I got out my gear again and hopped across the creek to take a photo of it with the waterfall in the foreground catching the orange light on the wet stones.

I decided to stick around and watch the western sky for a while, and I was quite rewarded for my patience. The sun found a way through between the low clouds and high clouds and produced an explosion of color in the sky. The color came on relatively quickly while I stood patiently with my camera on its tripod watching.

I took a lot of bracketed photos in case I needed to merge them to get everything, but I didn’t need them. The photo below is a single exposure that I edited in Lightroom. It was taken about 10 minutes after sunset and is shot at 14mm to get as much of the sky as possible.

I debated how much trail to have in the picture versus how much sky and I kind of like the above photo. It’s about two-thirds sky, which is a nice ratio. There is enough light to visually follow the trail across the creek and up the hill towards the sunset. I thought about making the image a bit brighter, but that’s the way it looked to me with most of the landscape silhouetted like that.

As usual I had the place to myself. I hiked back up the trail to my car with smile on my face knowing I had captured a great photo and I couldn’t wait to get home and retrieve it from the memory card.

Thanks for reading.

15 thoughts on “Sunset Photos – No Sky Replacement

  1. All very nice, but I think I like the orange thunderhead best, just because it looks so unusual. Looks like you got lucky this time, with just the right combination of sun and clouds for some great sunset photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree about your first picture looking even better in the Fall. I like how the light is coming through the clouds. Once again you made a nice picture out of simple things, like a stone and branch! Made me think of the dead tree.

    You definitely were rewarded with a magnificent sunset!! Another picture to frame perhaps? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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