Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

August 13, 2009

A Simple Sunset

Filed under: composition, favorite places, Film, light, New Jersey, Non Birds, style — richditch @ 2:00 pm
Sandy Hook Sunset

Sandy Hook Sunset

I’ve been enjoying my mini retrospective of places I’ve been and things I’ve seen as I’ve poked about among my slides from the days before digital. Here’s another – a simple Sunset, taken at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, sometime in the 1970’s or 1980’s.

I spent a lot of time at the Hook. Once a state park it got incorporated into Gateway National Recreational Area, along with Floyd Bennett Field on Long Island and various bits of coast on Staten Island. Sandy Hook has always been a very popular location for the summer beach crowds, but like most other birders I avoided it at that time of year. My visits were primarily to see migrating birds in spring and fall, and to search for winter rarities among the gulls and sea ducks, always hoping for something really rare like an alcid. In good winters there was often a Snowy Owl along the dunes, and one memorable winter we were treated to a Gyrfalcon.

But there was also a lot to photograph there as well even if the birds weren’t being cooperative.

There’s something elemental about sunsets, and I don’t know a photographer who can pass up a chance at a pretty sunset sky. Sometimes we want a sweeping landscape in the bottom of the frame, and a sky full of clouds to bring out a variety of colors and textures.

With this image I went for simplicity. There’s only one real color here, although it does occur in various shades. The black of the dune grass provides a foreground and a base to the image, and helps emphasize the color of the sky.

I’ve kept the sun rather small in the frame with a 105mm lens, rather than going for a long telephoto to make the ball larger. I’m more interested in balance between the grasses and the sun than in creating something artificial. I’ve placed the sun in a classical 1/3rd point both horizontally and vertically, and added some dynamics with the curve of the dune that shows in the left-to-right upward slant.

The only tricky part of this image was finding a spot to take a sunset in the first place. Sandy Hook is on the eastern edge of NJ, and the sun sets over all the developed towns to the west. So its not a given that a photographer can find a clean view back to the west.

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