Twilight – Nature’s HDR

13_MG_3603-TI’m often amused when I shoot the sunset and there are other photographers around. As soon as the sun dips below the horizon line, they fold their tripods and pack up their gear and head home. Sometimes it’s when I just start shooting.

Twilight is a wonderful time…sometimes.  It really can be seen and used well in the desert, especially the low desert that is surrounded by mountains. When you shoot around mountains, the twilight period is extended by 1/2 to a full hour because the sun will set behind the mountains, but still has not set below the horizon.

 It’s a time when the light gets soft and colorful but it also gets flatter and less contrasty.Sometimes this is good and you can use it to your advantage. Nature itself, tames the dynamic range of our scene. So  in that sense, it really isn’t a High Dynamic Range scene. But really this is what we want to accomplish, have an end scene that can be properly displayed by our viewing medium. 

During twilight though, there still can be a very high dynamic range scene. But it depends what you are shooting. The sky can still be very bright in relation to the ground area. If you are just shooting something and not including the sky the scene dynamics can be very low and easily captured. But if the sky is present in your image, especially if facing west. You may run into a scene that still surpasses your camera’s ability to capture it. 

In this case I usually turn to a different tool to tame Dynamic Range, I will turn to a graduated 3 stop Neutral Density Filter. I accomplish my HDR with a piece of equipment rather than software. We still are just trying to end up in the same place, just a different method. Remember that the light level is very low at this time of day so you will be tied to a tripod especiallyif you want to shoot low ISOs  a few seconds exposures are not uncommon

This past Saturday as I was headed home from shooting some Old Railroad artifacts, I was able to prove the above theory as I watch the twilight change the desert floor and the sky got it’s usually desert gradient of Purple to pink. I stopped and got these shots. 

Only one used 3 Exposure HDR processing. And that one I think is the least successful, once again proving; If you need HDR to accomplish the shot , use it. If not…simply don’t. Your camera will work just fine on it’s own.

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One Comment

  1. Duane February 27, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    Beauitful series!!

    Looks like a great place to explore and shoot.

    I still need to add some filters to my bag

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