A mediocre sunset is better than no sunset at all...
Note: for reasons I don't understand at all, this photo was published as an illustration in an undated (Feb 2010) Squidoo blog titled "Barely Balanced."
Moving into 2014, the photo was published in an equally strange context, in a "Team Wedding" blog titled "‘Shacking-Up’ Before Getting Married."
Note: A large percentage of my "landscape" photos (including the ones in this set) are now copyright-protected, and are not available for downloads and free use. You can view them here in Flickr, but if you would like prints, enlargements, framed copies, and other variations, please visit my SmugMug "NYC HDR" gallery by clicking here.
With the frigid weather these past couple of weeks, and with the sun way far south on the horizon, we've had some spectacular sunsets here in New York City. Unfortunately, they only last for a few minutes; you're either out there, ready to photograph, or you're not. If I were leading the life of sloth and leisure that I'd prefer, then I'd set aside an hour each afternoon, and just watch the progress of the sun and sky; but it doesn't usually work that way. Instead, I'm usually in my office, staring at boring, work-related trivia on my computer screen, and my wife yells at me from the kitchen, "... wow, that's a really great sunset tonight!"
On this particular occasion, it was not only bone-chilling cold outside, it was also quite blustery. I'm not talking about a few modest puffs of wind from time to time, but a steady (frigid) blast punctuated by gusts almost strong enough to knock me over. Meanwhile, the light was changing rapidly; and while I had brought my camera with me when I scampered out onto our 21st-floor balcony to get a better look at the sky, I had not brought my tripod.
Indeed, the light was fading so quickly that I figured I had only one chance to capture the scene. In the few seconds that it took to adjust the camera settings to capture a 5-shot HDR image, my fingers had become almost numb. I could see that I would need a fairly high ISO setting to ensure a fast enough shutter speed to allow a hand-held shot; and then I balanced the camera on the balcony railing and pressed the shutter speed, and waited to hear five consecutive "clack" sounds of the shutter.
Unfortunately, a huge gust of wind hit me at just that moment -- and it almost made me lose my grip on the camera. Rattled, I let go of the camera's shutter button after only four "clacks" -- so this is a four-image HDR shot, instead of the five I intended. Also, because of the high ISO setting, there's a fair amount of noise in the resulting image. I did my best to improve it with a plug-in program called "Noise Ninja," but it's barely adequate.
Normally, my reaction to a situation like this would be to shrug and delete all of the images; after all, tomorrow is another day, and there's a sunset every single day. But even on the non-cloudy days, we often have one boring sunset after another ... so it could be weeks before I'll see anything like this again. To make matters worse, I'll be out of town next week; and by the time I get back, the sun may have shifted, the temperature will (hopefully!) be warmer, and consequently the colors may be different.
So ... I've decided to keep the image. You may not like it, and you're welcome to stick out your tongue and make rude noises at it. Meanwhile, I'll just add it to my collection of sunset photos. Some are better than others -- but I'm a sucker for sunsets, so just about anything will do...
Note: This is one of 12 photos that I've culled from several thousand that I took in 2009, for possible presentation at a Jan 2010 class I'm taking at the International Center of Photography (ICP), called "On Seeing What's Right In Front of You." The photos already exist in various other Flickr sets -- often just one or two out of a group of hundreds of related images -- and I've just pulled them together for this occasion.
In the spirit of the ICP class title, all of these photos were taken "right in front" of where I live -- i.e., within a hundred feet of my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
The photos are organized as 6 separate pairs -- each pair illustrating a specific situation, close to home, where I had a particular motivation or strategy for taking photos. This particular photo illustrates the principles that you may have lots of potential shots "right in front of you," but they may last only a moment -- so you have to be prepared to grab your camera, and take advantage of the moment. Case in point: winter sunsets in NYC, which can be spectacular, but which only last a moment.