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How I Got the Shot: Mermaids Mist

Sunset Photography

Sunset Photography is always something that figures high not just in my but for all landscape photographers minds. It started out as a great day, most of the morning was bathed in warm sunshine, but that turned sour later in the afternoon. I thought I was on for a great sunset, it certainly looked that way but then something went sour. Blue skies and white clouds were soon replaced with slate greys and dark ominous clouds, as the wind shifted and temperature dropped that ominous aroma that happens before the rains filled my nostrils. Petrichor has got to be one of my favourite natural phenomenons, even if it does herald a soaking!

Sticking out a situation is a must, as long as the gear remains dry and you’re optimistic then you’re good to go. There is no other way to accomplish when others fail, especially with sunset photography. Boy was I glad I stuck to my gun this day. Of late I’ve been doing a lot of super long exposure imaging. This is a style of imaging that can only be accomplished when using a trusted and performant set of ND Filters in both graduated and uniform density coatings. I use the KANI Optics brand, and for good reason. They are constructed using absolute top quality German B270 graded optical Schott Glass, quality without compromise. I know, I know some people will be thinking “Yeah well of course he’s gonna say that, he’s sponsored by them” and in response I say “Nope, wrong”. I actually bought all of my KANi Products, OK so at a slight discount but they were not offered freely. This way I am free to say exactly what I like about them, which is always the way I roll. Truth of the matter is that I simply cannot fault the filters and the quality given the adventures in imaging I’ve thus far had with them.

This instalment of ‘How I Got The Shot’ stems from a few questions about settings I’ve had from my facebook posts. Now in order to get the best smokey water aesthetic one needs to have agitated waters to start with. I recently blogged about a similar shoot in the Sunabe region of Okinawa, and the one thing that remains is the state of the Ocean at the time of shooting. As an idea of just how agitated those waters need to be I’ve posted this image, to the left, that is an actual video still shot during the exposure of this very image. Yeah, pretty agitated. We’ve been having a few days of elevated wind speeds out here due to a passing Typhoon to the East of the island, this in turn has churned the surrounding Ocean into a maelstrom of froth and monster waves.

Taking advantage of that I’ve been visiting a few locations to shoot super long exposures as I experiment in my sunset photography, with thus far Mermaid Grotto yielding the best results. Setup wise I’m using my trusted Canon EOS5DSr fitted with an Irix 15mm f2.4 super wide lens. Screwed directly into that I have a KANI Optics 95mm adapter ring for their proprietary filter holder. With this lens I’m using their 100mm x 100mm filter holder with no history of vignette when using two or less filters in the holder. I do have the option to build a third filter slot / tray in the holder but then as this is a prime lens with no option to zoom through the darker corners, or vignette, I simply choose to use two filters on the camera in this scenario.

For this shot I had a Soft Grad ND 0.9 in the outer slot and a ten stop ND1000 closer to the camera. The reason for this being simply that there is a gasket on the filter holder that seals light from entering between the camera and the filter located closets to it in the holder. I do however also shield the holder in light situations where there could be the potential for light leaks between the second filter and the first. I also, if shooting at any time other than dusk, I tend to cover the eyepiece of the camera again to avoid the potential fro light leaks during super long exposures.

Camera settings wise I was on f8 at ISO100 for 300sec or five minutes. Stability was provided for by my tried, trusted and rusting Manfrotto 055XProB Tripod and I set the long exposure using a Canon branded electronic shutter release. Editing wise I removed some sensor dust and adjusted white balance to create a more sunset aesthetic.

So there you have it, a peek into my gear and the way I use it when looking to shoot sunset photography. This is just one aspect of imaging, one style that brings together many of mother nature’s best attributes and if handled correctly can yield some stunning results. I hope this has helped those looking to get a better grip on the technique. If you would also prefer to see the ‘How To’ video on my YouTube Channel then please feel free to watch that, and subscribe if you like what you see and want to get more of the same on a weekly basis.


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Emmy Award Winning wildlife cameraman and Internationally published landscape photographer Mark Thorpe has been an adventurer since he could walk! An ex-French Foreign Legionnaire and National Geographic underwater cameraman and field producer he's also been privy to a mixed bag of hair raising adventures. Currently based in Okinawa, Japan he's always on the lookout for that next big adventure, and for those who willing to support the same. He shares his adventures online with a totally organic social audience in excess of 230,000 followers. An audience garnered since his debut with Social Media in 2009. Mark is currently open to long term ambassadorship offers from corporate entities looking to add a dynamic content media marketing solution to their brand identity and social channels.

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