Waiting for the Night

Have you ever taken a photo at twilight? Were you happy with the results?

We found these gorgeous Hoodoos in the Bisti Wilderness reserve in New Mexico. This was such a fantastic location. It’s the kind of place you could just wander in for hours. Actually. We did wander around for hours. And we would have liked to stay a lot longer – climbing over one ridge after another, discovering bizarre formations and crazy patterns in the rocks, searching for interesting composition… what a place!

This was the last shot I took that day. I set up my camera to shoot these strange, smooth hoodoos – but I wanted something different. Rather than shooting in broad daylight, or during the golden hours, I decided to take the shot at twilight. This is the time after the sun disappears below the horizon – when there is still a soft, glowing light remaining. And before it is truly dark. I wanted a slightly strange light to add to the bizarre scene… but I wanted the light to be very subtle and smooth to compliment these beautiful hoodoos.

So, I set up my composition and waited for the light to do what I wanted. (And believe me, waiting around in a place like this is no chore… so much to look at!) When the light was soft enough – and I could see a touch of pink in the sky behind the hoodoos, I fired off a 3.2 second exposure. No good. The hoodoos were too dark. So, I pulled out my headlamp, fired off another exposure, and gave the hoodoos a pass or two with my lamp. I had to take a few shots to get the light even on the foreground… and to avoid the harsh shadows that directional light produces. For this final shot, I made sure I was far enough back with my light to avoid bright spots, and I moved the light from side to side to reduce those shadows.

Although dramatic sunbeams and brilliant sunsets can be striking in a photograph – I sometimes prefer more subtle light. Especially when the landscape is dramatic on it’s own.

4 replies
  1. Sathya
    Sathya says:

    Love the soft light. If u had not mentioned about the headlamp, i never would have guessed, it really is subtle. Reminds me of Toadstool from the UT wilderness area.

  2. Dion
    Dion says:

    Beautiful photo! No chance you could add the dark photo to the post, for comparison? The strange light you ended up with reminds me of the light you might get from an almost full moon, without the harsh shadows.

    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Darn! Sorry, Dion! I didn’t keep a dark photo to show you! I wish I had. I try to delete images that I won’t use so that I don’t end up with overflowing archives. I should have kept one for comparison this time around, though!


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