A Clear Sky Evening

It was Saturday afternoon and I really needed to shoot some photos. The sky was as clear as it has ever been without a cloud in sight. I puttered around the house trying to think up something to shoot, but I eventually decided to just go hiking and shoot something even if it didn’t turn out to be a great photo.

I drove out to one of my regular hiking haunts at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge – Doeskin Ranch Area. The afternoon was sunny and mild and the hike was nice. I immediately saw that all of the long grass was beginning to turn golden for the fall, so I set about shooting it. There was a lot of grass but not a lot of subjects to work with. A picture of a field of grass is pretty boring, but I think it works well if it is framing a subject.

I settled upon this old weathered tree branch and some stones in the tall grass. I have stopped at this spot numerous times as I keep expecting there to be a picture there. I’ll let you decide if I found one.

I tried a couple of things with this tree branch. First, I collected a set of focus-stacked images for post processing as I was shooting wide (16mm) and up close to the subject and I was unsure of how good the focus depth was. It turned out these dozen or so images were unnecessary as I got all I wanted in one exposure.

Second, I put on the ND filter and took some long exposures hoping that the golden grass would blur out in the gentle breeze, but there wasn’t enough breeze to make a difference and my ND filter flares in the sunlight which kind of ruined the photo. The lens has a coating that reduces lens flare, so again I was happy with the single, unfiltered exposure that you see above.

I wandered around a bit more, took a few unremarkable photos that will take a brief trip to oblivion through the recycle bin on my computer, and then headed back down the trail towards the parking lot.

When I got to a particular overlook I saw a photo that I hadn’t tried before. The setting sun shining through the clear sky was lighting up the Ashe Juniper tree and the rocks on the path. I don’t think I have seen this before because I am usually here chasing cloudy sunsets and haven’t seen the sunlight so unfiltered by clouds.

Again shooting wide, I managed to get the setting sun and the tree. I would usually shoot straight out toward the sunset, but today I saw this composition with the golden evening light on the gnarly tree trunk. I eventually decided to stop the aperture as tight as it would go to make a sun star if possible.

I will also point out that the raw image was underexposed by more than a stop to keep from blowing out the sun and all of the landscape was dark. I was able to pull all of that detail back out of the image in Lightroom, so I find that to be pretty impressive dynamic range in a single photograph.

The sun went below the horizon and took all of its light with it, so I hiked down that trail you see in the distance back to the parking lot and headed home. I think I got decent photos for a clear sky evening. What do you think?

16 thoughts on “A Clear Sky Evening

  1. I think they’re both good photos, but I do like the shot of the juniper the best. I like how the sun to the left, and the juniper to the right, help to frame in the trail that runs off in the distance.


  2. Well Tippy and Jim both said what I was thinking, sooo … LOL!
    Like Tippy, I like the Juniper shot the best, and the way you caught the sun’s rays and like Jim the first one stands out to me because of the top part of the grass, having the sun’s golden glow.
    And I echo Tippy’s words, “You are a natural” Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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