One of the wonderful things about living in Okinawa is the beautiful sunsets I get to experience almost every day. Sadly, I usually have other things to do at that time of day, but when I'm not otherwise occupied, I can hardly resist the urge to get out and shoot something. When I set out, I often have a place in mind and a frame I'd like to try to capture. Often, I don't get what I want because the sky doesn't cooperate, so I make a pledge to go back and shoot when I have the chance. Other times, I just get lucky and everything works the first time out. Last Sunday was one of those days.
I'd never gone to Maeda flats before, but having seen pictures that made me jealous, I knew it was only a matter of time. Having (almost) finished my household chores, I looked out the window around 4:30pm and saw a sky that had the makings of an outrageously beautiful sunset. Naturally, I grabbed my camera kit and headed up to Madea for the shoot. I consulted the tide tables before I went to make sure the tide would be out and I was in luck. After parking, I followed a couple of Marines down to the beach, took out my camera and started snapping.
Sunset pictures should always be shot into the sun. It's best if the sky is hot, but not so hot that detail around the sun is lost. As is standard procedure for landscape photographers, I shot lots of brackets so I knew I would have something to work with when I got back to the studio ("studio" is actually pretentious - I really just have a desk in the dining room). This was one of the first shots I snapped.
The sky is hotter than I usually shoot. I had brackets shot at a faster shutter speed, one and two stops below, but this is the one I chose, partially because I like the way the light comes blasting from the sun and partially because I like the way the people are walking, their shadows crossing the horizon. The man on the left (tiny in the frame) is fishing. The two figures to the right are a father and his young son out enjoying the incredible view. Although the photo is really about the sand in the foreground and the reflections of the sun, sky and clouds in the tidal pool, the people really give the photo a sense of happiness and peace. Cannon 100D, ISO 100, Samyany 14mm manual lens at f 16.
As the sun set lower in the sky, I positioned myself so that I could get a shot of the sun coming thought a passageway in a large rock. Stopping down the lens to f16 or lower will produce the kind of "starburst" you see below.
The trick is to expose for the sun, because if it is overexposed, you'll end up with a burned out blob instead of a glowing sunball. The number of shutter blades on the camera will influence the number of beams in the starburst. These photos were processed very differently in post. I wanted maximum detail in the sky, so I had to live with limited detail in the rock. This is okay, because any more detail and the photo would start to take on a tone-mapped HDR look, which was not what I wanted. I let he sky go orange and yellow instead of trying to bring out the blue like I did in the first pic, on the feeling that the blue would detract from the starburst, Some would criticize this photo because the sunball, the key point of interest, is in the centre of frame, To that I say that the real point of interest is the snorkelers just beside the sunball, chatting while getting ready to go out. And besides the "rule of thirds" is meant to be broken. I pity the photographer who can't free himself from the rules when they don't work for him.
Of the many shots I took at Meda flats, this next one seems to be the favourite, just because it has the fascinating texture of all the raised limestone in the middle ground, the subtle green of the algae in the foreground and the orange of the sunset combined with the blue of the sky. This is the sort of shot that would get featured on 500pix (maybe I'll upload it one day).
This is one of my favourite shots ever. I'd love to take all the credit, but the truth is, I had a lot of help. Nature gave my the beautiful sky, Canon gave (I should say sold) me the camera, Samyang made the terrific lens, Adobe produced Lightroom software and Apple manufactured the laptop I run it on. All I did was show up, point the camera and press the button.
My simple blog about the art and science of photography.