A swampy summer solstice sunset

Summer Solstice Sunset

I braved extremely high, muggy  temperatures to create this stunning print of sunset on the longest day of the year!
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Henderson swamp sunset does not disappoint

It's been miserably hot here in South Louisiana. Temperatures have soared to the upper 90s, with heat indexes reaching as high as 112 degrees. In fact, I broke a sweat recently in the 20 steps between my truck and the front door of my home.

So I've resisted the temptation to get out and shoot in the swamps I love so much. It's been that brutal!

However, I woke up on the summer solstice with a real desire to get out of the office. A quick check of the cloud forecast revealed the best conditions in weeks, with high clouds expected to last through sunset.

So I packed my gear, hooked the truck up to my boat and battled horrendous Baton Rouge traffic to reach Henderson Swamp near Lafayette.

Water levels were high, so I couldn't use my go-to tripod (a Benro Mach 3 carbon fiber). Instead, I moved my Benro VX30 ball head to a custom tripod that extends to a whopping 12 feet. All I had to do then was find the perfect setting.

I ended up on Henderson Swamp's South Flats, where I found a perfect cypress tree. My plan was pretty straightforward: Use that tree as the foreground to an amazing sunset photo.

To do this, I planned on using my new Benro 150mm Master filters in front of a Sigma 14mm Art lens. I quickly set up, placing a polarizer and a 3-stop soft grad neutral density filter in front of the lens.

I really wanted to create smooth water, which would dictate using a solid neutral density filter to extend my shutter speed dramatically. However, a nice breeze blowing was moving the foliage of the cypress tree too much for that. 

No worries: I decided to create two photos I could composite during post production.

So I waited patiently as my sunset approached. Finally, minutes before the sun slipped behind the horizon, I slipped in a Benro 10-stop Master ND filter and did the conversion to arrive at 177-second exposure.

The results were perfect, creating that nice, smooth water I wanted.

All that was left was to remove the ND filter, which allowed me to speed up the shutter speed to the point where I knew the leaves of the cypress tree would be tack sharp.

I captured that second image, taking several frames just to be sure, and then sat and watched as the colors drained from sky. It was such a wonderful time in one of the remaining wild places of the United States.

There wasn't a doubt in my mind I had what I wanted when I packed up and headed back to the boat ramp.

The next morning I loaded up all the images, sent them to Photoshop. Marrying the water from the photo with the slow shutter speed was a simple matter of creating a mask and painting it in over the photo with the fast shutter speed. 

Easy peasy - and the final print titled Summer Solstice Sunset is one of my favorite sunset shots of the year!