Each year in June or July you’re likely to see a picture like this here on Weekly Fifty. It’s usually some kind of sunset or nature photo, and it’s always taken at Acorn’s Resort in Milford, Kansas where my family has gone for vacation for the past ten years. Every year I try to find either a new type of picture to take, or a new way of taking a familiar type of image, and the latter was certainly the case this time. I brought a slew of camera gear with me but since most of our time was spent visiting with family, most of my pictures are relatives: siblings, parents, nieces, and nephews. There was one evening when my brother’s wife tipped me off about the sunset, so I decided it was worth a quick break from talking around a bowl of chips and queso. And she was right: this one was awesome.
I grabbed my tripod, Nikon D750, 50mm lens, and 10-stop ND filter and ran out behind the cabin several of our families were all sharing together. The sun was rapidly setting so I didn’t have much time to try various locations and vantage points, so I just decided to set up my camera in one single spot and see what I could get. I chose a location just up the hill between the cabin and the shoreline, switched to manual focus, metered the scene, screwed on the ND filter, and took a 30-second exposure. I liked what I got but I adjusted the view just a bit, took another exposure, and repeated that process just a couple more times before the sun went down over the horizon.
I’ve taken a lot of sunset shots over the years, but this just might be one of my favorites. I like virtually everything about this image: The brilliant colors, the rays bursting outwards from the sun, the lens flare on the right, the still surface of the water, the sharp treeline…you get the point. Everything about this image just worked, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity, the gear, and the photographic knowledge to make this shot. This image is not possible with a mobile phone for several reasons:
- Mobile phones have a static aperture, which means you cannot get sunbursts like what you see here.
- Mobile phones do not have the ability to shoot with ND filters, though there are some third-party companies that make clip-on options. These are nowhere near the quality of a proper screw-on ND filter like what you can put on a dedicated camera lens.
- The field of view on most mobile phones is between 25-30 degrees, which means the sun in this image would be much smaller and the scene would not have the same sense of warmth and personality.
I’m not disparaging mobile phones here, I’m just saying that as great as they are in 2021 they still have some important limitations. And sometimes it helps to get a dedicated camera and spend some time learning how to use it to get the shots you want :)