Halloween Sunset, Bernardo Mountain

The skies looked promising yesterday in the late afternoon, so I went for a quick walk to “that new/old spot” overlooking Lake Hodges again. I knew that the direction probably wouldn’t be “perfect” for a sunset photo so this was more to still my curiosity.

At first the most color in the clouds appeared only to the west. I had switched to a longer lens in order to capture some cloudscapes without any foreground (thinking they might come in handy for swapping out a sky in a twilight real estate job;) when the color, about ten minutes after then sun had set, finally began to show – and all around, too: the underside of low fluffy clouds burning bright red directly west, less pronounced to the north and south, and with a soft pink glow in the east, as if the skies were blushing there.

I still wasn’t convinced that this would be a photo worth showing, but when the virga just above the right shoulder of Bernardo Mountain lit up, I quickly changed back to a wider lens. It was precisely the little extra that was needed.

Some tech notes follow below the photo, for those who are interested.

Tech Notes

This is a blend of two exposures – two seconds for the sky, six seconds for the foreground. It would actually be possible to recover the foreground enough from the 2-second “sky” exposure (at the cost of a little more noise), but doing so in Lightroom alone doesn’t yield a result that looks as natural and homogeneous as a blended exposure.

The Shadows & Highlights both would require some pretty strong adjustments, and while that works okay sometimes, for scenes like these, the transition areas then always have some haloing. Those need further brushing and careful adjustments until they look convincing – using Photoshop with the Quick Selection tool and then some refining and brushing on the resulting mask was just as fast.

Also, it’s pretty much invisible in the web version, but the sharpness in the bottom right corner is a bit lacking. Knowing that these colors can fade really fast, I quickly switched to my normal 24-120mm lens, and focused it just a little bit too far away… sigh. (f/13 was not enough to rescue me!)

I could’ve just stayed put with my 24mm tilt shift lens, properly focused (with just a tiny bit of tilt) and wait what would happen – but standing static in a single spot “waiting for the light” when the skies all around light up and are so beautiful just isn’t my thing. I guess I should bring a second camera body with a long lens next time! ;)

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6 thoughts on “Halloween Sunset, Bernardo Mountain”

  1. Beautiful work, Alex, and “virga” is a new word for me. A useful one, because I see that phenomenon sometimes. I’m not one to stand and wait usually, either. ;-)

  2. I’m glad you decided to show this one. It is a beauty, very nice light. And I love comparing this to previous photos of this location, how different it can look. These are great reminders to continue revisiting locations.


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