When someone asks “Can I hire you to take pictures of ______?” it’s music to my ears. I enjoy the challenge of a fine art photography commission. I enjoy researching specific subjects and techniques for commissioned works; such assignments help me develop new skills and always pique my interest.
In this case, my client wanted photos of the famous “Praying Monk” on Camelback Mountain, in Phoenix Arizona, to use as a holiday gift for his grandfather, who has a special affinity for the mountain as an AZ native. Specifically, he envisioned images taken at sunset, from the east side, with the monk black against the sunset sky. Images from this commission are available for purchase as stock on my website.
The light changes rapidly at sunset; there is a narrow window when the light is ideal (the so-called “golden hour”). These images were all taken only about 1-2 minutes apart, yet the light in each is totally different. Above, the sun was still high enough for the starburst effect; below, it had dipped lower and the light is more diffused.
In late fall, when these images were taken, the golden hour starts around 4:30-4:45 and ends about 5-5:15. So, I had to be there, camera settings ready, in exactly the right spot to catch the sun as it dropped behind the mountain. After some reconnaissance, the “right spot” turned out to be on McDonald, west of Invergordon, 1) in a field, 2) dodging traffic, and 3) in someone’s driveway – more on that below.
Ideally, there would have been a few clouds…but alas, this is Arizona, after all. At the time, there were none forecast until roughly March. 🙂 So I did the best with what nature gave me.
I shot these using a Nikon D200/18-200mm at f/11 and ISO 100 for maximum sharpness and lowest possible noise.
To get a silhouetted image like this, the foreground must be underexposed. Point your in-camera light meter to the background, or light source, not the foreground.
As the sun sank lower, I had to keep dialing down my shutter speed to keep it at f/11 ISO 100, so eventually I was using someone’s mailbox as a makeshift tripod to avoid jiggle. (I brought along my real tripod, but I left it in the car at first during brighter light…so by the time it would have been helpful, I realized I didn’t have time to go back to the car to set it up, or I’d miss the light show! So I managed without it. But don’t make my mistake – always keep your tripod with you. I know I will from now on!)
Right before I totally lost the light, I walked down someone’s driveway to shoot this one through their bushes. I keep trespassing lately! 🙂
I had to process at least one image in black and white – this one worked well since by this time, most of the colors were gone so I didn’t feel like I was wasting good color.
Ah, Arizona, I adore you. What a gorgeous scene.