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?