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Nilesh_P

Sunset shadows



Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California
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Winner in Amazing Sunsets Photo Challenge
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Behind The Lens

Location
This photo was taken during a fly-drive road trip of the West Coast of America. We pulled over to catch the sunset at a vista point at Big Sur, which is a stunningly beautiful, and therefore a must-see, part of California!
Time
As mentioned, this photograph was taken at dusk/sunset. We had been driving pretty much the whole day, making our way along the coastal highway. We had been travelling at a leisurely pace, setting aside time for photo stops along this beautiful stretch of road. Our intention was to stop to see the sunset at Big Sur, and I'm so glad that I insisted that we do this. The rest of the group informed me afterwards that it was also one of the highlights of their trip as well!
Lighting
The lighting was perfect, being around the "golden hour". I took a number of different shots, and used different exposures, but in the end I chose this particular composition. I selected this shot because I just love the symmetry of the curved edge of the clouds and the curved row of stones, as well as the long shadows cast by the stones. This was due to the low-sitting sun, and I personally feel that the sun flare adds a little something extra to the final picture.
Equipment
I am particularly pleased at how this photo turned out because of the fact that it was taken handheld (I didn't own a tripod then), and using my first ever DSLR camera (an entry-level Pentax K-x). At the time, I was using second-hand manual focus K-mount lenses bought cheaply on an auction website, as this was all I could afford. I liked the fact that the cheap Pentax allowed me to use cheap manual lenses as it was good for my budget, and it also forced me to start practising using manual settings for my photography.
Inspiration
As well as getting to see a beautiful part of the world that I had never visited, I intended to use my visit to California as an excuse to start shooting with my (then) new DSLR. Having seen some amazing sunset photographs by the experts, I was inspired to have a go myself, as so many professionals recommend not being afraid, and to try lots of different shots until you find what works. Although this was a very early attempt at a sunset photograph, I have a personal affinity towards it because it was probably the first photograph of mine that seemed to grab peoples' attention, and drew compliments.
Editing
As well as learning how to take photographs, at that time I was attempting to teach myself about processing digital photographs. I was particularly fascinated with the technique of HDR photography that I had been reading about (yes, it was all completely new to me!) I used a free HDR software that I managed to obtain a copy of, and started experimenting with the settings until I produced an image that I was happy with. I liked the slightly painted feel of the final image. I have since followed the advice of professional photographers on Viewbug and in magazines, and have started shooting in RAW. This always me to change parameters and reduce noise etc. during processing.
In my camera bag
I have since upgraded to a Pentax K-s1, which has a higher quality sensor, and has some added benefits over the K-x, and have bought some nicer lenses to make up my camera kit. I also carry a sturdy, yet portable, tripod (you don't have to fork out lots of money in order to get one that is suitable for most purposes). Along with the Pentax 18-55 mm kit lens that came with my first camera, my lens combo consists of: A sigma 18-35 mm f1.8 lens which is a nice, fast lens for general purpose and for night shots; a Sigma 70-300 mm f4-5.6 zoom lens with macro for a decent zoom range and of course the macro capability (can achieve 1:2); a Pentax 50 mm f1.7 lens which allows some nice head shots with shallow depth of field; and a Sigma 10-20 mm f4-5.6 lens which provides a nice wide angle. I tend to carry some polarising and some graded ND filters, and aim to learn how to use these a lot more to help improve my photography. Finally, I always ensure that I have packed a spare battery, spare memory cards, and my IR remote shutter release.
Feedback
Going with the advice that I received, I would definitely suggest going for it, and not being afraid. The main advantages of digital photography include being able to see the composition of your picture immediately, being able to take a virtually infinite number of shots (just as long as storage is not an issue), and being able to process the images to your liking. I would, therefore, suggest taking multiple shots using different compositions, and selecting the one/s you like the most. With this type of shot, my advice would be to try and achieve something slightly different with the composition (e.g. the seemingly symmetrical curve of the clouds and stones), and utilising the type of light you will have around dusk to play with shadows. Most of all, try and have some fun, and of course don't miss out on the natural beauty of what exists, and what is happening around you!

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