Stonehenge, UK

Stonehenge at sunset, 2014

Stonehenge at sunset, 2014
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Behind The Lens

This photo was taken at Stonehenge, UK after official closing hours. I am a self-taught amateur photographer and am enjoying learning about photography and editing.
This photo was taken sometime between 8:00pm and 8:45pm in May of 2014. I signed up for an after-hours Inner Circle visit to Stonehenge, which anyone can sign up for. There are limited spaces (25) for the visit and they generally run 4 visits per day, 2 before the site opens and two after closing. I were lucky to get a spot during sunset, and this turned out to be one of the most dramatic sunsets I've seen in my time in the UK.
I have to admit, I didn't really have much control over the lighting, due to the timing of the visit. The lighting, just happened to be perfect. The entire day leading up to this photo had been overcast, and all of a sudden the clouds parted and there was the sun dropping down below the horizon for the entire 1 hour that I spent at Stonehenge. I got extremely lucky that Mother Nature cooperated, and I was able to shoot many fine photos.
This was shot on a Canon 30D, with a Sigma 24-70mm lens. No tripod was used for this photo. Camera was in aperture priority at f/7.1.
The sunset in the background, the sheer size of the rocks at Stonehenge, and the desire to capture all of my feelings about this moment were what inspired me to take this picture. I shot at least 600 pictures in the hour that I was allowed to be at Stonehenge. I recommend the inner circle visit for anyone who is serious about photography and wants a chance to see the site up close and personal. Without doing the visit, the closest you can get to stonehenge is about 100 yards away. During the inner circle visit, you can walk right up to and through the center of this ancient world site. It is an amazing experience. Plus being with only a handful of other visitors at the time, everyone is so respectful of each other and really going out of their way to allow others to enjoy the site is a really great feeling.
This particular image is a bracketed exposure processed in Lightroom and Photoshop 2014. In Lightroom, I worked on sharpening each of the three bracketed images while using noise reduction and masking to get as detailed a shot as I possibly could before combining them in Photoshop HDR Merge. For my HDR pictures, I like the look of the Scott preset in photoshop, and start there but tweak to my actual favorite settings from that starting point. For me, I generally like a little bit more light and shadows than the preset allows for, and this particular picture the color was so striking that I left it as is.
In my camera bag
I'm new to photography, so the equipment that I own is what I take with me. I have a Canon 30D with a Sigma 24-70mm, a Canon 55-250mm, and a Nikon AW100 for quick pictures. I'd like to upgrade at some point, but I have so much more to learn about the equipment that I already have. I am really enjoying learning as much as I can, so until I feel I've outgrown my current equipment, it will do just fine.
The weather in the UK is ever-changing and unpredictable. To get a shot like this, unfortunately, you kinda need to get lucky as I did. With that said, I wish I would have had a monopod or tripod so that my camera could have been a little bit more stable than hand shooting, especially when shooting something that I plan on making an HDR later. Since I'm learning, I write down things I learn each time I shoot, that way I'll remember them later and can have a reference in my own words that I can work off of. The more I shoot, the better I have become, and I'm enjoying it just as much, if not more, than when I first started. The key is to keep shooting as much as possible. I don't always take great pictures, in fact, because I'm still an amateur and learning, more often than not I take a lot of bad pictures. But this leads me to figure out why the pictures aren't turning out the way I want them to, and causes me to learn even more. Eventually, I've started having a few shots that when I'm processing I have to stop and just say "wow". That makes me proud.

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