I have noticed many people who visit beach during sunset, start vacating the beach as soon sun sets in the west. As a photographer it is always beneficial to stay back for another few more minutes. You can witness and capture glorious skies. Sometimes if you are lucky you will be blessed with post-sunset glow also known as “afterglow”. That day my family wanted to go to Ullala Someshwara beach off Mangalore coast. I made sure that I carried my tripod along with wide angle lens and ND filter. I was using Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM Lens on a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod. That day I had carried Hoya HMC ND4 Multi-Coated Neutral Density Filter. As it was first week of June 2012, I expected monsoon clouds. Clouds or dust produce a nice afterglow and with that assumption, I waited late after sunset.
An afterglow is a broad high arch of whitish or rosy light appearing in the sky due to very fine particles of dust suspended in the high regions of the atmosphere. An afterglow may appear above the highest clouds in the hour of deepening twilight long after sunset. The particles produce a scattering effect upon the component parts of white light. After the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, a remarkable series of red sunsets appeared worldwide. These were due to an enormous amount of exceedingly fine dust blown to a great height by the volcano’s explosion, and then globally diffused by the high atmospheric currents. Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream possibly depicts an afterglow during this period.
I wanted to capture slow shutter speed effect on the sea. So I carried my neutral density (ND) filter. A neutral density filter is a dark filter which is placed over the front of a camera lens. It reduces the amount of light coming into the lens without adding any extra color, thus allowing you to obtain longer exposure times. As the filter is very dark, this requires you to compose and focus before screwing the filter onto the lens. It forces you to take greater care in composing image. You may think ND4 is four stop and ND8 is eight stop filter by looking at its name. But the name is very misleading. ND4 is only 2 stop Neutral Density filter and ND8 is 3 stop. By combining both we can get 5 stop light reduction. That day I had forgotten to bring ND8 filter. The light was quite bright and weather was not at all overcast. Few wisps of cloud appeared and then disappeared. It was quite windy too. I really wanted a long exposure effect of smooth silky sea. It was not possible without proper ND filter. I could go only up to 1 sec shutter speed at f/22 aperture that too on an ISO 50 setting. That is the time I decided that I need ND400 Filter which reduces exposure by nine stops of light.
The clear sky hardly gave any sign of glowing. But I persisted despite my family urging me to return back before it gets too dark. After convincing them that I am on a verge of glorious afterglow, I waited. It was after few minutes the color of the sky started changing. Sky suddenly transformed between 6:52 PM and 6:55 PM for barely three minutes into glorious shades of pink, violet and indigo colors. I was fortunate to wait for it and captured it quickly before it vanished. It was not the afterglow I had expected, but nevertheless it was better than nothing. As Napoleon Hill once said “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success”.