Alan Pelletier Photography

Landscape and Travel Photography

Posts tagged ‘sunset’

Patience waiting for the scene

This past weekend I traveled to Newport RI for some night photography of the Milky Way at Brenton Point State Park. My wife came along to enjoy the scenery as its one of our favorite spots in New England and to get some great seafood. We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked into our hotel, then proceeded downtown to find dinner. After checking out menu’s at several locations we decided to try Clarke Cooke House along the waterfront. Dinner was exceptional followed by some Gifford’s Ice Cream at Sprinkles ice cream shop around the corner.

We then drove over to Castle Hill Lighthouse to capture sunset. The lighthouse is located near the Castle Hill Inn, but public access is provided. Being summer the Inn is very busy and parking is limited, but they did provide free parking at the entrance of the road at the intersection with Ocean Avenue. From the parking area it was only a 10-minute walk to the lighthouse.

70mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Upon arrival at the lighthouse the sky was filled with large dark gray clouds in the western sky. As it was approaching time for sunset it appeared it was going to be a lackluster event. Nonetheless, I proceeded with taking some photos. My first setup attempted to capture the sunset behind the lighthouse, but with gray skies I was only able to take a images in a different direction without the lighthouse where lighter cloud coverage and developing colors provided more interesting photos. I took several photos, but was tempted to pack up my gear as it appeared the western sky was not going to deliver.

36mm, f/8, 1/3s, ISO 100

As the time for sunset passed, I notice another photographer setup on the other side of the lighthouse that provided the composition I had in mind with the emerging colored sky in the background. I quickly picked up my tripod and walked further down the trail looking for access to this location. I found a narrow trail through the brush that lead me to the location and quickly setup my tripod as the colors in the skies were really starting to pop. I took numerous compositions in both portrait and landscape format.

38mm, f/8, 0.6s, ISO 100

As mentioned earlier I wanted to get some photos of the Milky Way and met several other photographers at Brenton Point State park later that night. I arrived around 10 PM and the night sky was partially obscured by clouds. By the time I got my camera set-up the clouds had substantially thickened and was really only able to take one set of photos of the Milky Way. We waited until 11:30 PM, but it was apparent the skies were not going to clear as confirmed my our weather apps. Instead of throwing in the towel for the night, we decided to take an opportunity to photograph the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.

58mm, f/2.8, 13s, ISO 3200

We proceeded to the Jamestown side of the bridge to get a better view of the bridge at night. We parked at Taylor Point Lookout and walked down a narrow trail to rocky edge of Narragansett Bay passing several fisherman done for the night. The bridge was beautiful with its lights casting a glow across the water and onto the rock ledges where we proceeded to setup our cameras. There were also fewer clouds that provided more interest to our compositions. Grabbing several photos of the bridge at night certainly made up for lost opportunity at Brenton Point and was I able to get back to the hotel at a reasonable early time of 2 AM.

32mm, f/16, 323s, ISO 100

For some additional technical information regarding the photos above all were taken with my 24-70 mm f/2.8 Nikon lens with my Nikon D750. The sunset photos at Castle Hill Lighthouse were taken without any filters and processed with a combination of Lightroom and DXO Nik Collection Color Effex Pro 4. I’m particular fond of using Color Effex Pro 4 as it gives me the detail and colors I desire for my photos. Unfortunately, the images of the Milky Way were shrouded in heavy clouds and I was only able to salvage a single image of a portion of the star field taken at 58 mm and processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I took several images of the Newport bridge at different exposure settings and settled for a long exposure of approximately 5 minutes to use a small aperture of 16 to get the starburst effects for the lights and low ISO to minimize noise. I used Lightroom to edit this photo. If you have any questions about photographing the Milky Way or long exposures or my processing technique for any of the photographs, feel free to contact me.

Grand Canyon and looking behind you

It’s something I always need to remind myself when taking photographs, that’s to look behind me and all around for different subjects. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially when taking photos at the Grand Canyon. Obviously, my main objective during my last visit this past January to this wonderful location was to take pictures of the Canyon. However, one just needs to look around to find beautiful images besides those of the Canyon.

Shadow and Light
70-200mm, 120mm, f/11, 1/40s, ISO 100

When walking up to the rim it’s so compelling to just “click” away at the expansive beautiful scenes in front of you with so many incredible possibilities. Each location along the Canyon providing different views and perspectives from its sloping canyon walls to the numerous plateaus and an occasional view of the Colorado River. Different photographic opportunities to capture its immense size and tighter compositions that capture its endless textures and colors. How the sun produces new palettes of vibrant colors especially at sunset and sunrise. It’s ever-changing seasonal views with winter being my favorite as the snow provides contrast to the multiple colors of its geologic layers. My favorite photos of the Canyon included those at sunset with the low angle of the sun providing dramatic contrast and textures of golden light and dark shadow. Another favorite was from Navajo Point at the eastern end of the Canyon that provided fantastic views looking down into the Canyon at the Colorado River.

Navajo Point
24-70mm, 45mm, f/11, 1/8s, ISO 100

While I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos of the expansive beauty of this National Park, it was some of my other photos when I reminded myself to look around that were my favorites as well. This includes my recent IG post of a pine tree branch silhouette at sunset. A photo that I captured as I was moving my tripod to a new location on the rim with the light from the setting sun filtering through a pine tree that caught my attention. I took several photos, including those with the full tree and the Canyon in the background. But it’s this particular photo of the single branch in silhouette with diffused sunset colors that I ultimately posted.

Pine Tree Silhouette
70-200mm, 122mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO 100

Another photo that I posted from my trip was that of a raven. While not the most intriguing birds to photograph, unlike the California Condors I photographed at Horseshoe bend during a visit to Lake Powell a few years back, I do find them to be fascinating. From their distinctive call that reminds me of the desert southwest to the sound of the air flowing over their wings as they fly overhead. Usually, upon hearing them I stop to find and observe them. If you observe closely in the right light you can catch a hint of blue or teal in the feathers. They are somewhat comical when interacting with other ravens. A symbol of southwest they represent change/transformation and the bearer of messages and magic to many Native Americans.

70-200mm, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 400

Photographic Tips: When taking photographs into the sun I often take a bracketed set of 3 photos using the auto bracket feature of my camera. I typically use 1 stop intervals providing 2 underexposed photos in addition to my normal exposure. This ensures that I capture the full dynamic range of the scene that I can process as an HDR photo in either Photoshop or Aurora HDR. In the case of the pine branch silhouette, I selected one of the underexposed photos as a starting point. Turning down the shadows and blacks to ensure a dark silhouette. If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact me.

​Sunset tour of South Maui – February/March 2018

A re-post from my blog page at my former photography web page.

Sunset Kamaole Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 44mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO100

Aloha! Earlier this year my wife and I spent two wonderful weeks on Maui at the end of February and beginning of March. It was our second trip to Maui and we stayed in Kihei, which is known locally as South Maui. We stayed in a studio apartment that was only a short walk to Kamaole Beach Park and within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants. Much of the time was spent relaxing on the fabulous local beaches, but I did get some time to take photos.

Early morning rain soaked hibiscus
Sigma Marco 105mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO400

The weather included sun, clouds, and rain on most days and not in that specific order, which provided fantastic opportunities for photography each day. Fortunately, most of the rain was light and fell after dark.  Being on the southwest end of the island most of my photos were taken at sunset. I did try to get out twice for sunrise; however, with Haleakala looming in the east at elevation 10,000 feet all of the pre-dawn colors were long gone by the time the sun made its appearance.

One of the many things I enjoyed was the number of beaches and their accessibility. It seemed like there was a beach every half mile where we stayed, beaches we visited included Kamaole, Kalama, Ulua, Baldwin, Makena, and Kanaha. Access was not limited to just that from the streets as most of the resorts that dotted the shoreline in between the beaches provided public access along the shoreline as well.  Providing beautiful walks along the ocean that we took full advantage of, including two long walks to Wailea from our resort.

Sunset Ulua Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 27mm, f/11, 1/13s, ISO100

Each beach offered a unique quality or experience that we enjoyed, such as Makena State Park Beach that our niece is named after.  It is a large crescent-shaped beach with the remnants of a volcanic caldera located at the north end of the beach.  Here on our first day, we spotted 45 sightings of humpback whales as it was peak season of their annual migratory visit to the Hawaiian Islands. We participated in two whale watch tours with Ultimate Whale Watch in Lahaina.  The whale watch tours were excellent with the second being more memorable as it provided more favorable weather with plenty of whales, including one group with over 10 whales.  For the whale watch tours, I brought my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephotos lens that provided the reach to get some spectacular shots.  Getting the shots was a challenge despite the long lens, the primary issue was the inflatable tour boat that constantly moved, not knowing where or when the next whale would surface, and taking photos among other photographers on the boats as well.  I chose to use aperture priority, continuous shooting mode, and auto ISO compensation and setting this feature with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500sec in hopes to improve my chances to get sharp images.  While this did provide some great images, the number of out of focus or missed photos greatly outnumbered by winners, which is expected. 

Whale Tails
Tamron 150-600mm, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO100

Another highlight of our visit was finding green sea turtles at Baldwin State Beach located near Paia. A friendly passenger on our flight to Maui mentioned that sea turtles can be frequently seen at this beach. We were not disappointed as we made three separate visits and spotted beached turtles each time.  The turtles typically beached themselves at the north end of the beach and were not bothered by all the beachgoers, including pesky photographers like me.  I used my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens to get tightly cropped images of the turtles.

Taking a break
Nikon 70-200 mm, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO320
Kite Surfer at Kahana Beach
Tamron 150-600mm, 450mm, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO100


Other activities that we enjoyed included visiting downtown Lahaina with all the different shops and vendors.  Three we made our second visit to the Lahaina Inn one of our favorite restaurants on Maui. We also made stops to Lappert’s Ice Cream shop and fell in love with Lava Java for our morning shot of caffeine. I also enjoyed photgraphing the kite surfers at Kahana Beach, a popular destination of the more advanced kite surfers.  For these photos I used my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephoto lens, and probably spent nearly 2 hours sitting on the beach firing off hundred of action photos. Lastly, we frequented several local fish restaurants in search of the best fish taco and found that Paia Fish Market served the best fish taco and was conveniently located a mile from where we stayed.


My Recent Trip – Sedona Red Rocks

This fall has been a busy travel time for me as it is my preferred time to travel just after summer with beautiful weather, warm temperatures, and fewer crowds.  My travels took me from the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona, to the coastline of southern Maine, and a trip to Europe to visit Lisbon and Dublin.  In this post, I’ll cover my trip to Sedona and in subsequent blogs cover my trips to Maine and Europe.

Returning to Sedona is always a special event filled with anticipation of enjoying the Arizona weather, hiking, biking, and of course taking some photographs.  On this trip, I flew to Sky Harbor (Phoenix) by way of Southwest Airlines connecting through Chicago, which was fairly uneventful with the exception of local thunderstorms possibly delaying my connecting flight to Phoenix and only having 20 minutes to enjoy my dinner.


Chicago Midway Airport

Flying into Phoenix is always amazing at night as the plane enters the greater Phoenix area and seeing all the city lights and highways filled with flowing traffic that quickly turns to darkness beyond the city limits.  I only waited about 15 minutes for my shuttle ride and we were off on the 2-hour drive north on I-17 to Sedona.  Pulling off exit 298 to drive the 7 miles to the Village of Oak Creek (Village) is a beautiful drive, but it was dark as it was nearly 11PM.  However, the night was clear and lights that from Cottonwood and Jerome to the northeast were visible.  Finally, as the shuttle passed the Red Rocks Ranger Station I knew I was just minutes away from ending my journey to Sedona.

The following morning, Thursday, I was up early still being on east coast time and took care of some personal business, but did note that the skies were hazy, not the normal clear blue skies that I’m accustomed to, nonetheless, it was good to take up the Arizona sun.  img_1256-2My first destination was Red Rock Crossing off Verde Vally School Road to take photos of Cathedral Rock.  Upon pulling into the parking lot for the Baldwin Trailhead the reason for the hazy conditions was apparent as smoke from a wildfire burning north of West Sedona near the Secret Mountains was clearly visible.   The fire was burning in very steep and remote area that limited firefighting efforts to aerial drops and ground personnel setting backfires to contain the fire.  The fire was eventually fully contained and suppressed.


Waiting to take a photo

I grabbed my camera gear and headed to the flat rocks along the banks of the Oak Creek below Cathedral Rock.  The location is popular for photography with iconic views of Cathedral Rock; however, I was still looking forward to taking some images as I suspected with recent rains that great reflections were a definite possibility.  I spent a few hours taking photos, including several long exposures of the Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock as a backdrop.  For most of my photos, I used my trusty Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens and my newly purchased Nisi filters.  I primarily used the 3-stop and 6-stop ND filters to create a smooth appearance of the Oak Creek.20180830-194135 -_DSC9434-Edit


Glowing wildflowers

My second day I decided to photograph sunrise from an area near the Red Rock Ranger Station in hopes of taking some images along the Dry Beaver Creek but was unfamiliar with the hiking trails.  Realizing the time and distance to the creek, I spotted a nearby ridge line and quickly proceed to find a vantage point for a sunrise image.  I managed to take several photos, but the images were lackluster.  Not every outing produces images, but I still enjoyed my morning exploring a new area.  I proceeded back to the ranger station and noted all the newly bloomed wildflowers from the recent rains and took several photos of flowers.  In particular were these wild yellow mini sunflowers that were amazing in the morning light. During this walk, I used my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens as I prefer it for impromptu photographs.


Red rocks on fire

Later that evening, I drove to the Schnebly Hill Road trailhead to hike up onto a vantage point to photograph uptown Sedona during sunset.  Having hiked to this vantage point during previous trips, I quickly found my preferred location and set up my tripod for some sunset photos.  While waiting for sunset I took several photos of the surrounding Red Rocks during the “Golden Hour”, which locally is referred to as “Sedona Time” where the red rocks are lit on fire against the blue Arizona sky.  Most of these photos were taken with my 70-200 mm lens.  As the sun settled over West Sedona, the clouds added drama to the scene, in particular creating a stunning background for Capital Butte.


West Sedona

As the sunlight faded the lights from both uptown and west Sedona began to illuminate the scene below me.  I decided to hang around and grab some images during the “Blue Hour” following sunset.  My favorite time to take cityscapes as the urban lights complement the dark blue sky.  For these photos, I used my 24-70 mm lens.  After, I proceeded back to the trailhead under a beautiful starry sky overhead.  The Arizona night sky is so much brighter with more stars than the sky back home in Connecticut.

The following day was Sunday, the day before Memorial Day and I went out for a bike ride for my weekly treat of a raspberry mocha at Starbucks in West Sedona.  As I was returning to the Village, I noticed the long slow moving traffic proceeding north on Route 179 to Sedona.  Sedona is the second most visited place in Arizona after the Grand Canyon, so I decided to explore the nearby town of Cornville for the day to avoid the crowds.  I drove along the beautiful Page Springs Road with numerous vineyards along the Oak Creek to the Bubbling Pond Fish Hatchery.  A location I noted in previous trips, but have not visited.  I parked my car and grabbed my camera gear and proceeded to see what photographic opportunities waited for me.

At the hatchery, several large ponds raise fish to stock the adjacent Oak Creek and several nature trails provide opportunities to observe local wildlife, in particular, waterfowl and eagles.  While I did not spot any eagles, I did see numerous ducks in the fish ponds and some herons flying overhead.  img_1323Sorry, no photos as I did not bring my longer lens on this trip.  Along the backside of the property adjacent to some marshy fields, I spotted a large Western Tiger Swallow Butterfly.  I took several photographs of the butterfly and some dragonflies as well.  I meander over to the Oak Creek, but the banks were full of vegetation with only a few open spots that were taken up by people fishing.  Being monsoon the clouds started to thicken up and the wind picked up abruptly, so I proceeded quickly back to my car.  As I drove back to Sedona, I pulled over to capture an image of a thunderstorm over the Red Rocks of Sedona to the northwest from Cornville Road.


Mansoon rains over Sedona

Memorial Day was my last full day in Sedona and I made plans with my friend Terry Moore to hike on a new trail near Bell Rock and try to find a way to circumnavigate the upper slick red rock of Bell Rock.  As with most hikers, we proceeded up the north side of Bell Rock up onto the slick red rock along marked trails.  Then progressed to the west finding our way along some unmarked trails and ridgelines facing Courthouse Butte to our west.  This portion of the hike was the most difficult portion of our hike as the trials were unmarked and at times narrow; however, we did manage to get to the south face of Bell Rock where the red rock widened and flattened.


Looking south to the Village

At this point, we were treated to a fabulous view the Village to our south.  As we proceed to the east side of Bell Rock we ascended a short climb through a narrow passage through the rocks and then back down to the flatter wider portion of the slick red rock.  Finally, we made it back to the north face of Bell Rock and went back to our vehicle parked at the Courthouse Vista trailhead.  Being still early we decided to hike near Cathedral Rock from the Yavapai Vista trailhead.


This hike includes one of my favorite trails, the Hiline trail that takes you out to a fantastic vista looking across the open high desert to Cathedral Rock and toward West Sedona as well across Route 179 to Red Rocks near the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The trail quickly ascends from the trailhead, but then levels of until the vista.

20180902-110446 -DSC_1045

Cathedral Rock from Hiline Trail

We decided to continue to Cathedral Rock descending down onto the open high desert and crossing over onto the Templeton trail.  The Templeton trail hugs the eastern face of Cathedral Rock until it merges with the Cathedral Rock trail.  Looking for more adventures and panoramic views, we ascended up to the saddle between the large rock pillars that make-up Cathedral Rock.  At the saddle, the panoramic views are fabulous as one can see the red rocks to the east toward Route 179 and the Red Red Crossing area off Verde Valley School Road to the west.  We descended back down Catherdal Rock trail sidling down the steep slick rock face to the Templeton Trail.


Easy does it!

As we were hiking back we could see thick thunderstorm clouds north of us near Wilson Mountain and they were moving toward us.   We picked up our pace frequently checking behind us as the clouds were closing in on us. We made it back to the parking lot without getting wet, but the thunderstorm clouds were overhead at this point and as we drove back to the Village the skies opened up with rain.  20180902-125418 -DSC_1059_AuroraHDR2018-edit


In all, we hiked approximately 10-miles enjoying the scenery as well as our conversations along the way.   I need to mention my admiration for Terry as he is 70 and still very active, what an inspiration.  It was a great day to end my trip to Sedona and looking forward to my return in January as I plan to run up to the Grand Canyon for some winter photography.  If you have any questions about where to go or what to see in Sedona, please drop me an email.