Larry Treadwell  

First Light at Bodie Light by Larry Treadwell

June 2022 - First Light at Bodie Light

June 2022 - Larry Treadwell


About the Image(s)

First Light at Bodie Light

Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 lens @ISO 400, f13, 1/100, with polarizer and tripod.

Back in April I visited Bodie Light on North Carolina’s Outer Bank from early evening to dawn the following morning. I brought home a plethora of images but failed to capture the one shot I really wanted, the Milky Way over the lighthouse due to a lack of cooperation from the clouds. This month’s selection was the last image I captured in the morning before I departed and was taken just as the sun was rising. There was considerable planning that went into this image. Since I was on site all night I spent some of the last hours before daybreak working on creating a suitable composition. As the dawn began to break I took several shots during the blue hour that I was quite happy with but I kept visualizing the first light of the golden hour tinting the lighthouse with golden hues that I thought would work well with the golden hues of the grasses along the boardwalk. The problem was the first light of the sun while catching and tinting the lighthouse, was being blocked by distant trees from lighting the grass and left much grass too dark and without golden hues. I tried several exposures and was not satisfied. Part of the problem was a strong breeze that kept the grass moving and required a fast shutter speed to keep them from blurring. As the sun got higher a pair of wonderful pink clouds began blowing across the background. To my delight I was getting a double tint on the tower of the lighthouse. The bright white of the tower was picking up some blue tones reflected from the sky and some rose tones reflected from the clouds. I really liked these reflections. Since there were two separate clouds I decided I wanted to use them as a frame, placing one on each side of the lighthouse. Due to the sun being intermittingly blocked by the clouds out of camera view to the east I had to shoot whenever the sun broke through the clouds and lit the tower. This shot was the best I could get with clouds on both sides and the tower lit by sunlight

However I was not really pleased by the wide expanse of grass on both sides. I finally decided on a bit of Photoshop magic to solve the problem. I simply moved both clouds closer to the lighthouse and settled for a square composition. This gave me grasses with shadows and textures and not as much blank area on the left side. It also seems to make the lighthouse feel more intimate and kept all the tones and hues reflecting on the tower. Finally, it allowed for a more meaningful frame from the two clouds. I’ve posted both images, the wide view and the condensed view for your inspection. I’ll be interested which you prefer.

One final note. The main building on the right side appears to have some blue tint on the wall of the upper story. Those blue tints were actually present and I assume they were caused by the reflected light of the sky on the white wall. If you look carefully you will see the same blue tint on the left side of the lighthouse tower. Part of my planning for this shot included the fact that I wanted the golden hour tint to appear on the lighthouse. This required shooting for the high light tones on the house which required careful spot metering and a bit of underexposing to make certain that the light would not burn out the light tints. The double tint (the blue and the gold on the tower) are one of the reasons I particularly like this image particular image. I feel they add something to the overall appearance and are something I do not usually see in sunrise images.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
8 comments posted

Michael Jack   Michael Jack
A well composed, very well technically executed image. I think an option I would try would be to crop in from the left so the lighthouse would be on the thirds and would be balanced by the houses and structures on the right; the walkway may be a bit heavy on the left though. I like the color balance choice. The blue reflection on the house does look like you tried to bring up shadows so I would consider trying to make it more white. Finally, my eye is really drawn to the bright blue sky. I would consider toning that down. Your commitment to photography is amazing.   Posted: 06/04/2022 17:38:24
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Michael, first regarding my "commitment" to photography. I've always been a careful planner and have been accused my my camera club of just being too slow. What really made the difference was that I got involved with PSA's education division and have participated in writing 2 courses and then teaching those courses along with a third course. The courses are Image Evaluation, Image Critique and the third is Creating Images for PSA Competitions. In trying to teach PSA members how to go about planning and capturing an image and seeing how little of this was actually applied to students creating images it made me look for different ways help them and this lead to inspecting my technique as well. All this self inspection has lead me to examine my own technique and thus create better images. For the record,students who take these courses and complete them are making remarkable strides in improving their own images. I strongly recommend that EVERY PSA member should look into taking at least one of these courses. There is currently about a have dozen of really dedicated and talents instructors helping student to improve their work.

Actually capturing those tones on the building was done by adjusting exposure (I tried to get them to show)and they were not created in post. Cropping this was a really challenge, I tried moving the light house to the left or to the right but as you noted the walkway became a problem. That was why I created the square crop. In that I did reduce the brightness of the sky as you suggested.

In the end, I'm still not satisfied.   Posted: 06/13/2022 14:41:34

Arne Skinlo   Arne Skinlo
I am amazed by the effort you put into your images, but you are heavily rewarded! What I like most in this image is the use of warm and cold colours that compliment each other very well. On the contrary to Michael, I would crop from the right to get the lighthouse out of centre, since there is no symmetry,   Posted: 06/12/2022 07:55:36
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks Arne. I was likewise drawn to those warm and cooler colors as they, as you noted are complimentary. I thought they added something original. I am sort of leaning to a crop that gets rid of the building on the far right. They really are not helping and is likely were I will end up.   Posted: 06/13/2022 14:44:48

Barbara Gore   Barbara Gore
Very nice image and amazing planning. I like the use of warm and cool colors and I'm drawn to the wide view as it gives me a sense of calm. I like how the wooden path leads you in to the main subject and how the clouds accent the subject.
I, like Arne, would crop in from the right. Or, 16:9 crop. For me the square crop feels tight.   Posted: 06/12/2022 12:32:47
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks Barbara. After seeing the wide view, the square does feel tight. I've tried cropping from the right and keeping the left but then the boardwalk begins to look odd. It is the strange diagonal in it. You are Arne may just be right and the crop from the right could be where I end up.But even a big crop from the right, still leaves the lighthouse in the middle. So much to consider. Thanks for your help, all the contributions made here are giving me something to think about.   Posted: 06/13/2022 14:51:03

Richard White   Richard White
Nice work and your efforts bring results. I enjoyed the placement of the clouds and the colors they brought into the picture. I tried cropping your photo, taking the house on the right out. Didn't work for me, when I did that I removed the clouds on the right, which I liked.   Posted: 06/13/2022 17:46:53
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks for commenting Richard. That is the exact problem I had. Everything I worked to get in the frame depended on the wide image as I shot it. Glad to see someone agrees with me. :-)   Posted: 06/13/2022 20:03:32