Location . . .Location . . . Location. . .

The weather maps showed relatively ideal conditions for a good sunset. The high level cloud were at 80%, mid-level clouds at zero and low level clouds around 20%. The high level clouds should catch the bright colors in the sunset and the low level appear as darker clouds against the brighter clouds. And I knew I wanted to capture reflections in water so I headed out to Meadow Pond. The sunset would be away from the majority of the houses and the lily pads would break up the reflections just enough to create a very interesting image.

2018.09.22_0175695 Meadow Pond Sunset

I arrived at the shoreline approximately ten minutes before the sun would drop below the tree lined horizon. I composed my shot, tweaked the focus and waited for the bright red, orange and yellow glow to start. And I waited . . . and waited . . ..

As sometimes happens, that 20% low cloud cover was all on the horizon, muddying up the "expected" colors but providing some interesting patterns in the sky and subtle color in the water. In the image you can see the high clouds were traveling from west to east and the low clouds south to north creating an interesting criss cross pattern. The lack of ground level wind left the ponds surface as still as glass allowing for some wonderful reflections without the use of filters.

I hung around for another ten minutes past actual sunset and decided my color predictions were just plain wrong. The bright red, orange and yellow glow was just not going to happen tonight.

What I did not see happening was what was developing about 30 degrees to the north. After packing away my gear I headed up out of the valley along route 140. As I crested the first rise in the road I notice to sky turning pink. I quickly looked down at the dashboard compass in my truck and determined it was the northern sky that was getting the color. Hopeful for a second chance at my colorful sunset I started combing through the memory cells for potential locations where I might be able to get a good panorama shot. As I continued down the road I could tell this was not isolated color. The entire northwestern horizon was lighting up with the red color I wanted on the water.

I live on a dirt road that crosses a small mountain on it's path across the valley. Atop that mountain are a few of old farms, only one of which is still actively involved in agriculture. It was with a fair degree of certainty that I knew the best possibility for capturing the sunset was on this very road. The upper pasture belonging to the Cottage Hill Farm, a dairy goat farm, might give me the best chance to capture my sunset. Being a forested road it was fairly dark when I finally reach the pasture, set up my tripod and remounted the camera. Crossing the pasture gate I started looking for the best location to shoot from. I ended up with three sets of images; one about 30 years off the road, another half way up the rise in the pasture (about 50 yards off the road) and the final from the top of the pasture - my final shot seen above.

Arrow points to the location where my original sunset shot was taken on Meadow Pond. Just south of the real color.

Arrow points to the location where my original sunset shot was taken on Meadow Pond. Just south of the real color.


Camera: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm f/4L Lens

Exposure: Five bracketed shots, +/-1 stop each series in landscape format, five sets of bracketed shots (25 images).

No filters used

Post Process: My plan was to merge each set of images and then stitch a panorama using PhotoShop CC. I must not have had the nodal point set properly because PS would not stitch the panorama. I ended up stitching two sets (1 stip under and 2 stops over) and merging them in PhotoShop. Luminosity masking was used to blend the over exposed foreground and trees to the sky image.

Final Shot: 11,406 x 3793 pixels at 360dpi enabling me to print images up to 12 feet long.

Mike McQuadeComment