After a terrific week away shooting with my friend Jeannie in Virginia Beach and on my lonesome in two other states, it was back to office work today. I had my butt nailed to the computer from the get-go while I uploaded files, updated inventory, and (starting at 4 PM) generated and filed last month’s sales tax returns for 3 different states that needed them within the hour. A couple of neglected text messages later, I stood up at last and looked at the western sky. High, thin cirrus clouds, strafed by high winds, abounded–harbinger of a killer sunset. And a good opportunity, I realized, for a quick revenue-maker at this weekend’s show to pay for the ultra-wide-angle lens I’d rented a week ago.
So I decided to make an assignment for myself: How fast could I get to a venue, get the sunset shot, process and post it? A quick check of the online tide chart revealed daunting math and logistics: I had 15 minutes exactly before sun touched horizon. Bunche Beach was the closest spot I could think of–13 minutes away if traffic was light. I grabbed my tripod, mounted the tripod head I use with wide-angle lenses, picked up my camera and an extra lens from the coffee table, and loaded a fresh battery and digital media card as I started the car.
Hit some lights green, but mostly not. Used the stop time to set the controls for a typical sunset exposure, which I can pretty much do without looking. Got there with at most two minutes to spare, grabbed the gear, and sprinted shoreward–only to encounter what looked to be a newlywed couple standing on the beach, awkwardly trying to line up both sun, clouds, and themselves in a selfie.
They were going to need either a photographer now, or a chiropractor later…and sprained necks and backs seemed like cruel things to deal with on their honeymoon. So, I took a big sigh and jumped in: “Let me help you with that,” I offered. The bride quickly handed me her smart phone–luckily, the same model I have. Tap on the flash icon to activate it, reverse the camera direction so it points out, tap the sky so that the phone uses that to set the exposure and not the dark foreground…line everything up….
Snap, snap…Done! Just in time to see the sun sink below the horizon. “You missed what you came here to do,” they groaned in unison as I handed back their phone. “Nope,” I lied. “The afterglow is the best part anyway,” I smiled, not realizing until just now that in a honeymoon context, that was a pretty sly double-entendre (not to mention: words to live by. But I digress!)
A quick splash through a tidal flat ensued, while I scanned the topography of shoreline and cloudscape for the best vantage point. Thirty seconds later, I was set up and shooting said afterglow with my 24-105mm Canon lens (not the lens I’d rented, but the one I thought would best do the trick) . This shot, however, was made from a second location, with the ultra-wide-angle lens (16-35mm) rental. The time stamp on the image told me I made it at 5:37 pm–4 minutes after sunset, about 3 minutes after I’d started shooting–and, not incidentally, less than 20 hours before I have to ship it back.
Screen capture from a quick consult of the tidal charts: So much to do, so little time :-)
“Cirrus Sunset, Bunche Beach”: Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm lens (at 16mm), Gitzo tripod and ball head. Exposure: In-camera HDR, +/- 1 stop. Base exposure: 1/5 sec, f/22, ISO 125. Processed in Photoshop with NIK Color Efex Pro pre-sets.
Got home at 6:02 pm, had the shot processed by 6:09–an hour and seven minutes after I got the idea to create it. Started writing this blog as soon as I saved the picture. As I post it, it’s 7:22.
Sooo, if my math holds up, it took me six minutes more to write the story than to shoot it. I guess the shooters I knew years ago at the Washington Post had it right after all, when I pressed them for career advice: Taking pictures is the easier gig!