Making of 'Bones of Lake Pontchartrain'

Bones of Lake Pontchartrain

This gorgeous sunset photo from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain was the result of a spur-of-the-moment trip out of the office.
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Lake Pontchartrain sunset does not disappoint

In late July I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to Lake Pontchartrain, hoping for a nice sunset over the Madisonville Lighthouse. Honestly, I was just bored with my office work and wanted to get out.

A beautiful sunset would be a bonus — and I held out little hope because there were thick clouds and storms all over the place as I made the 1 1/2-hour drive to the mouth of the Tchefuncte River. That said, my forecasting apps predicted a break in the weather just before sunset.

Sure enough, the clouds over this old bat began to break up, but the western horizon was blanketed by a line of clouds. My only hope was that the sun would throw light across the sky OVER the cloud-choked horizon.

In the meantime, I decided to focus on this old shipwreck just off the shore instead of the lighthouse. Why? Well, first, the lighthouse was a lot farther away, so I'd have to use a longer lens. I definitely could have done that (and might in the future), but I also liked how the clouds were setting up over the shipwreck.

The old pilings of the pier also drew my attention, as they added leading lines to the old boat, as well as adding eye candy to the composition.

My lens of choice was my trusty Nikon 24-120mm f/4. This lens is money! I set the lens at 24 mm to capture the water, those pilings and as much of the sky as possible.

On front of the lens was my Benro Master Glass polarizer to cut some of the glare on the water and add overall contrast. These exposures can be tricky, since the sky is always several stops brighter than the foreground. For this image, I chose a 2-stop soft grad neutral density filter to tone down the brightness of the horizon, and then added a 4-stop soft grad ND filter to darken the top of the sky even more. 

I knew I wanted to smooth the water out, as the lake was very choppy. So I added a 4-stop solid ND filter that allowed me to extend my exposure to 30 seconds.

And then I waited.

The sun disappeared behind the clouds, and pretty much all the color bleached out of the sky.

However, about 10 minutes after official sunset the sky above the lake blossomed in color. All I had to do was trip the shutter!

A black-and-white version

After I released the print above, one of my collectors — who is a black-and-white junkie — asked if I would convert it to a monochrome image for her review.

I have to admit that I had my doubts. I mean, the original print is so vibrant. But I shrugged and began the process of turning the photo to black-and-white.

And was absolutely thrilled with the results, seen below. The monochrome version has such great contrast, allowing that old shipwreck to really stand out and become the central star of the show.

My collector loved the final black-and-white print and said it would be added to her collection soon!

Bones of Lake Pontchartrain No. 2

I wasn't sure about converting the original color version of this print to monochrome, but I couldn't be happier with the results!
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