A gorgeous Lake Pontchartrain sunset

Lake Pontchartrain Light Show

Prints Available

Sunset puts on real light show over Lake Pontchartrain

I've been stuck in the office (or battling some nasty bug) for the past month, so the urge to get out and create new prints has been growing. Finally, feeling better combined with what promised to be perfect skies to push me over the edge — I decided I HAD to get out and shoot a Louisiana sunset.

The swamp was out: The winter chill has finally pushed the trees into dormancy, so the cypress forests are leafless and dreary.

So I settled on Lake Pontchartrain, and my vision included locating an old dock to add interest and leading lines to the final image. I pulled up Google Maps to scout out some possibilities.

The trick was to find some piers that pointed directly toward the setting sun. A group of hurricane-damaged docks in Slidell on the northeastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain held great promise.

I headed out early, to give me plenty of time to find the perfect location.

My first targets turned out to be down a private road: No trespassing signs made it clear I wouldn't be working on that stretch of the lake.

So I started driving lake-front roads, and found two vacant locks fronted by docks of which the only remnants were pilings. The pilings of one were very short, but extended far into the lake to offer promising leading lines.

However, the second option offered tall pilings leading to a blown-out dock cover. I knew instantly I could use that wooden box to frame the sun as it touched the horizon.


I carefully set up amid the riprap protecting the lake's shores from the battering waves, and framed up the scene so the pilings move from the bottom right corner diagonally to the horizon. The app The Photographer's Ephemeris showed me exactly where the sun would slip over the horizon, allowing me to set every thing up to frame the sunset.

The next step was using my Benro Master Glass filters to create the perfect exposure. First, I used a polarizer to create nice contrast and blue up the sky a bit. Then I slipped a .9 soft grad neutral density filter into the holder to darken the sky and even out the exposure.

The lake was very choppy, so to smooth out the water I added a 1.8-stop solid neutral density filter. This allowed me to keep the shutter open for 1o5 seconds, which really gave a nice look to the water.

That meant that, as the sun approached the horizon I just needed to push the shutter button.

The final print, which I titled "Lake Pontchartrain Light Show," perfectly illustrates the beauty of sunset over Lake Pontchartrain.

Prints are available: Just click here!