When it catches fire

Can you ever tire of a sunset? In lieu of yesterday’s post about the mutability of the river, this evening it rendered a full on show. My greatest pride in the capture is that I knew it was coming. Early in the afternoon, I watched as flat, patchy clouds were gathering in what is referred to as the mackerel sky (cirrocumulus). And since they were off the horizon, I knew the sun would catch them on fire once it slipped below them. When I arrived to this spot, an interesting surprise was in store.

Quick backstory. For years I have encountered balanced stones along the river. Stones roughly a foot long stacked up sometimes 10-15 high in intricate designs that look like small models of ancient monolithic structures. As I was getting my gear together, I met North Watt, the man behind these stone balances. But North had some bad news and told me had been banished from the area (for thirty days) by a park ranger for balancing the stones. (I know, right). The given reason was that the stones were on the river bank to prevent erosion. I understand the truth behind that reason, but on the other hand, it’s pretty asinine BS. I would understand if North has been hoisting up the large stones or throwing the stones in the river when he was finished. He pulls from the edge, balances a few, and photographs them with other landscape elements in the background. Usually by the next day they have tumbled back into the recesses from which they were lifted. It gets under my skin a bit because of all the real environmental detriments to the river I see during my excursions, detriments a bit more worthwhile in policing. In the end though, we hung out and photographed a remarkable and glorious sunset.

The top image on this post is a stitch of four exposures. My wide-angle lens could get all the way around this cloud formation. Besides stitching, it is pretty much SOOC. The only adjustment I made was to the white balance in LR before sending to Photoshop to stitch. The below image was right when sun dipped into that sweet spot of clear sky between the clouds and horizon. Maybe 3 minutes later did it transform into the red fire of the first photograph. With this one, I manually blended two exposures in Lightroom, trying out a cross-balancing technique. For one image I kicked the white balance up to 7500k, and for another one that was taken at +1EV, I applied a cooler white balance of around 3500k. I then manually blended parts of the cooler sky and foreground into the warmer photography using layer masks.

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15 thoughts on “When it catches fire

  1. Wow, when I saw the first image I thought…what a great shot! Then, when I scrolled further and saw the second shot, I thought the first sucked (ahahaha, it doesn’t suck Brandon just kidding) and the second ROCKS!

    What an interesting story about North, I tend to agree that it’s BS however, I can see the reasoning (but come on, 30 days?)!

    As always Brandon, excellent job!!

    • Thanks, David. The 2nd one I like better too, but I had to toss the pano up for the sake of the labor involved :). And as I said, I understand the reasoning. But if you look at the rocks in the foreground of the second, this guy is taking maybe 4-5 and balancing them to shoot the sunsets through the crevices. Meanwhile, you can’t walk fifty yards into the surrounding woods and not run into someone’s junk drop-off or even worse, forgotten animal traps often with skeletal remains about, all of which seems like it is never policed in any fashion.

  2. I’m with David. I saw the first image and thought it was a beautiful sunset with great colours and nice textures in the sky and then the second image just went BLAM! and blew me away! Your description lost me though, I’m not getting how you did it. Perhaps this is a good DDT post…

    • Thanks, Mike. And from reading my notes on the 2nd, it is a bit thin and with error…the two exposures were blended together using layer masks in Photoshop (not Lightroom). In Lightroom, I took the normal EV and gave it a warmer white balance and then took the +1EV and gave it a cooler white balance. I then sent both to Photoshop and stacked the the darker (normal EV) on top of the cooler (+1EV). I applied a layer mask to the top (darker EV), and then masked selections of the cooler exposure through in key areas to lighten up the foreground and add some tones to the sky. I agree, it sounds like a post for DDT! I’ll work on it this week.

  3. Hmm, this cross-balancing technique in blending exposures sounds very interesting. I should really get a move on learning how to mask (or layer mask) in Photoshop. I suppose I need to learn PS too. But thank you for describing your blend technique.

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