Sunset photograph of anticrepuscular rays coloring clouds over the marsh.

Eye Up

Sunset photograph of anticrepuscular rays coloring clouds over the marsh.
Eye Up — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

I made this sunset photograph Monday, October, 3 out at my usual Cedar Run Dock Road stomping grounds. Conditions were solid and after several weeks of little to no shooting it was worthwhile just to be out there. I could nitpick the low-level clouds over the horizon that kept things from really exploding after the sun slipped below, but coming out a week of endless clouds and rain I was, and am still, in no position to complain.

Let’s get wonky

While I took time on Tuesday to run through my usual Lightroom to Photomatix and back to Lightroom workflow, I was too lazy to blog it up and fire it off for modest internet consumption. Taking a second look today, Wednesday, I started having second thoughts: I hemmed and hawed between two similar compositions with the lone difference being their perspective by way a horizon placement at the middle of the frame vs. placement of the horizon at the lower third—which is the photo shown above. It took a long hot shower and some dinner to move me to a decision.

As a general rule—and remember rules are made to be broken—I prefer a center mass horizon; this is especially true when working at wide angles. This minimizes the distortion caused by sharp angles diving toward the image’s vanishing point, which is exacerbated when you position the horizon in either the top or bottom third. In this case I deviated from standard operating procedure on account of ample cloud action to fill the upper two-thirds coupled with a less than stellar foreground of repetitive marsh grass. Were the horizon to be placed center frame the tide pool slides back to the middle ground and loses a touch of prominence. By taking a composition that favors sky real estate the tide pool is brought forward in the lower third—this has an added benefit insofar as the clouds are better reflected than its center horizon counterpart.

Did I make the right decision? Who knows? This line of thinking may be pedantic but there’s benefits in challenging your own workflows and assumptions. The right balance of purposeful critique measured against the pitfalls of perfectionism will help drive you forward in any of your life’s endeavors. Or it’ll just drive you nuts.

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