• Chase Hirt

A Sunset Storm

A beautiful sunset in Malibu, California

I titled this image "Sunset Storm" because the prominent and dramatic cloud formations are storm-like in their magnitude, scale, and complexity.

The relatively dark exposure on my Canon 6D Mark II's LCD screen still revealed the fiery clouds, subtle purple on the water and vivid blues in the sky and around the edges of the water. With purposeful post-processing, I chose to show off these characteristics in the image to most closely match the sight that I saw on that evening.

With a 103 second exposure at 24mm on my Canon EF 24-70 mm f/4 L IS USM, I sought to blur out the water to a pleasing level of stillness, while still retaining the clarity in the sky. Although I cringed every time an unsuspecting tourist stepped into frame, I reminded myself that the long exposure should blur them out of existence leaving only minimal Photoshop retouching during post-production.

This panoramic image captured on my iPhone X serves to show the scale of the beach and my composition relative to my surroundings.

The filters that are visible on the front of my camera are a .9 or 3 stop soft-edge graduated ND filter from Lee filters and a Big Stopper 10 stop filter from Lee as well. The graduated filter served to keep a consistent exposure of the burning sky with respect to the water and sand, while the Big Stopper allowed me to reduce my shutter speed.

A 6 stop filter would have been more appropriate, however, since I chose an f-stop of f/5 for a shorter exposure in order to capture the best of the light as it faded after sunset. The 6 stop filter would have allowed me to maintain a higher f-stop value such as f11, which is the preferred f-stop for landscape photography. Since I was focused to infinity, the f/5 value did not significantly impact the overall sharpness of my image.

Of course, I shot this image at ISO 100 to reduce noise. This fact was somewhat negated as I had to raise the exposure to an optimal level from its underexposed origins. This introduced some artifacts in the clouds and sand, however, these are not noticeable unless one pixel peeps. After this experience, I was impressed by the dynamic range of the 6D Mark II, as lesser cameras that I have used in the past would have completely fallen apart in post-processing. The slight artifacts that appear are offset by the stunning conditions that occurred that night. The lesson for myself as a photographer here lies in the compensation for rapid declines in light levels as the sun sinks below the horizon. Although I added a few seconds onto the exposure in hopes of properly exposing the image, it was to no avail. In subsequent exposures I improved upon the exposures, but the best of the light was gone. All in all, it turned out just fine.

The iPhone images above and below show my camera and the tangle of cables and straps attached. I used the viewfinder cover on the Canon strap to block light for the long exposures, and I attached a remote control timer to take long exposures in bulb mode longer than 30 seconds in-camera.

The ridge of sand seen in these photographs that my camera is perched upon served as a perfect leading line into the fantastic sunset above.

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