Second Chance Sunset
Pointing our cameras towards the sun can often create dramatic images. Overall contrast is obviously maximized, but because foreground and middle-ground objects are being illuminated from the other side, they are rendered as desaturated low-contrast silhouettes. There is a controllable degree of textural detail within these shadows, depending on choice of exposure and subsequent digital processing.
Shooting contre-jour during twilight is a magic formula behind some of the most deeply saturated colourful images possible. There is no need for software saturation boosting here, it becomes possible to create honest images with striking colours appearing just as they occurred in reality, enchanting. Twilight begins the moment the sun sets and marks the start of an incredibly productive time for the landscape photographer. During twilight, sunlight continues to shine through the lower (i.e. denser) levels of the atmosphere which increasingly scatter its blue components away from the direct beam, intensifying the orange and red wavelengths reaching the western horizon. A darker colourless band can sometimes be seen immediately above the horizon. This is the shadow created by curvature of the earth’s surface beyond the horizon, shading the lowest levels from direct sunlight.
I spent a blustery March evening on the deserted rocky shore of Priest’s Cove, Cape Cornwall and after the twilight colours faded, I returned to the car and packed my gear away. As I drove up the steep hill on my way back to the hotel, this spectacular view appeared in my rear-view mirror. My sudden rise in altitude had provided me with a second chance to capture these intensified hues. I quickly stopped the car and spent a few moments composing this scene as the beautiful twilight colours transformed the western horizon. Avoiding camera-shake becomes more important with telephoto shots like this. With the camera on a sturdy tripod I positioned myself with my back to the wind. With mirror-lock-up engaged and a shutter delay of 2 seconds, I pressed the shutter-release and quickly opened my coat and held out the sides to create a make-shift wind-break shielding the camera. An exposure of 2.5 seconds allowed some textural rendering of the ocean but underexposed the headland with it’s familiar chimney-stack, creating this silhouette and providing a powerful anchor to the image.