My wife and I recently took a short trip to southern Virginia for a midweek get away. One of the areas we visited was Virginia Beach. Anticipating some picturesque photographic locations; I reviewed the Photographer’s Ephemeris to check both sunrise and sunset perspectives for an old fishing pier that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean. For no reason other than I did not want to wake up early, I decided on a sunset photograph.
The weather that day started out as a partly cloudy, early spring morning. This gave me the distinct impression that the evening sky might just have a lot of color and provide the opportunity for a very nice photograph. That evening we drove to the beach and I got out to see where I should set up my camera and tripod. Since it was a somewhat cool evening only a few people were on the beach and I thought that I was very lucky to be here at this time with an unobstructed view. My subject was an old abandoned fishing pier that was quite weathered in appearance. I looked at several different compositional viewpoints and proceeded to take photos under the pier and looking towards the pier. By now, the sky was starting to look a little more threatening than it had earlier in the day and I began to think a rainstorm may come up and ruin my opportunity for photography. By now it was approximately 5 pm and sunset was slated for 7:30 pm; therefore, the Golden Hour would commence around 6:30 pm. Here are two of the photos shot after setting up.
The deteriorating weather encouraged me to return to the car with my camera and tripod. At first, the plan was to sit and wait but we were both getting hungry. It appeared that there would be sufficient time to grab a quick bite to eat and then return to the beach for the Golden Hour. So, my wife and I drove to a nearby seafood restaurant named Hot Tuna and were told by the hostess it would be approximately 15 minutes before we were seated at a table. After waiting about 15 minutes, I asked the hostess how much longer and she replied, “about another 15 or 20 minutes.” Now I was beginning to get quite worried that that we would not get back to the beach in time for any sunset photos. As I looked out the window the sky was turning very dark and within a few minutes it began to rain, and the wind began to intensify. I thought to myself that the evening for photography was pretty much finished!
Resigning myself to the fact my photography evening was probably finished the hostess finally came over and said our table was ready! The good news is the food was excellent. The bad news is, just as we started eating the rain stopped, the wind slowed down, and the sun drifted towards the horizon and began to light up the sky and clouds with the most beautiful colors! I couldn’t believe my terrible luck. We were not yet finished eating and the sky was filled with brilliant colors. I glanced at my watch and it was almost 7 PM. My wife encouraged me to go to the beach anyway and still try to take a few photographs. So, we paid our bill and ran out to the car and quickly drove back to the beach.
During the walk to the pier, the sky was getting darker, the sun was sinking more, and the sky was not quite as brilliant; but there was still some good color left. I set up my camera and looked through the viewfinder to focus on the pier and was unable to lock-in with the autofocus. I then turned on live view and attempted to focus in manual mode. After a few twists of the focusing ring it seemed that the pier was in focus, so I proceeded to take several photographs. My chimping was constant and the LCD screen gave me the impression that I had several good photographs. The histogram also looked good. I could hardly contain my excitement at having obtained some good sunset photographs.
Days later at home, I uploaded the photos to my computer and much to my horror none of the shots of the pier were in sharp focus and as result the photos were useless! There are two valuable lessons that came out of this experience for me. The first and most obvious one is to not leave your location until you have finished photographing the subject. I never should’ve left for the restaurant! The second lesson was that I needed to learn how to better focus in low light situations. Since then I’ve done some research and now have a better idea of how to handle low light situations with a wide-angle lens. Here is one of the photos I took that evening and you can clearly see how out-of-focus the pier is because of my inability to manage a low light situation.
As I’ve said before my purpose in blogging is to document my photographic journey to becoming a better photographer. This episode did not result in any great photographs, but I did learn some valuable lessons that should help me tremendously in the future. Please come back to see where my photographic journey takes me next. In the meantime, keep on shooting!