An unexpected Sunset II – The setting sun
An unexpected Sunset II – The setting sun

An unexpected Sunset II – The setting sun

Being a sequel to the post An unexpected Sunset, I’ll keep the intro brief: I was hoping for an amazing afterglow in the nearby mountains. I had seen huge fiery rocks in the distance which just blew me away. I knew already that this could only happen in very special weather conditions. – And never having seen (or let’s say ‘recognized’) this before, I already expected that this won’t be an every day view. Yet some weeks later I ended my working day, looked out of the window, checked the weather forecast, some webcams and thought it would be worth to give it a try. I could be lucky! Let’ give it a try.

So, grab the photo equip (~8kg), ride the bike to the mountain and start hiking up. The timing was fine, so that I’d be at the top at time of sunset. During the hike I continuously checked my chances. At about half time it became obvious that a bank of clouds obstructed the sun … and I knew: I would not be lucky today.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I thought about stopping and driving home again. On the other hand … maybe I could find some other motive. At least for scouting. I had never been up there at sunset – so even if the conditions wouldn’t allow a really cool shot I should check how the lighting conditions are up there at sunset so that I could be prepared for the next time. – And if all else fails, I would at least have a physical exercise.

Arriving at the top I was first surprised by the amount of people up there. And second by the noise level! For me, hiking and photography always come with peace and silence. Anyways – I tried to ignore both people and noise, made a couple of test shots and tried to decide on which motive to focus on. In the end I decided to go for two motives:

The one shown in An unexpected Sunset: nicely framed by trees and bushes. And the one here: A really nice sunset shot directly into the sun. People were literally blown away when the sun appeared under the clouds! The light being reflected in the lake in the distance, slight mist in the air visualizing the sun rays, the sharp shadows cast by the trees and the village on the hillside on the other side of the river! I had to correct myself: I could be lucky today! Not as intended but maybe even better.

Back home I was faced with the challenge of a reasonable task of sensible post-processing. After the usual correction (leveling the horizon, applying lens profile, adjusting black/white point and a first crop), I quickly realized that “sunset” is a little different from my usual photos.: The clouds add drama but shouldn’t become the main subject. Reducing clarity in the clouds made them look softer (sharp and contrasty clouds look very weird!). I increased brightness around the area of the sun to make it more ‘glowy’. The far distance, there were some very beautiful layers that I didn’t want to loose in editing. Further down: the hillside should be sharp enough so that the trees are recognizable, yet the sunrays in the mist should remain visible by all means. The same applies for the hillside village: it should have enough contrast so that the shadows that are cast by the trees are visible but not so much that the misty look would get lost (sounds easier than it was). The lower part of the shot was challenging as well: Brightening it too much makes it look washed out and unnatural (there just is no light in this area). A little bit too dark and it looks like a single black hole. It should be dark, but with some hazy overlay that is illuminated by the sun. The tree on the right acts as a kind of counterweight to the mountain in the distance (left). The bush in the bottom left is just a silhouette so that the area does not burn out totally into black. Also it should be crop so far that it doesn’t draw too much attention that the viewer get’s stuck in that area searching for more details.

The conclusion of the whole experience: Sometimes you have to reject all plans, discard expectations, overcome frustration and try to find satisfaction in the opportunities at hand … I was really glad that I did not turn around half the way up. Not only did I see and capture a beautiful sunset, but also did I get a super opportunity to practice post-processing of a sunset.

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