I wrote in a previous post about how, originally coming from a city surrounded by mountains, I am fascinated by the “vast skies” of the Russian Plain, that spans approximately 4,000,000 km2 (2,000,000 sq mi) without a single mountain. This creates the ideal conditions for absolutely spectacular sunsets, thanks mostly to the fact that you can see the sun disappearing over the horizon (as opposed to behind a mountain).
The one pictured above is a sunset I captured just a few days ago, from a place I like a lot. This is actually very, very close to where I live now, in the city of Tver (about 180 kilometres – 110 mi – northwest of Moscow). This is where the famous Volga river crosses the city. The bridge on the left (which you can only see in silhouette) marks the furthest place that large river cruise boats can sail upriver toward the source, which is not far from the city in the Valdai Hills, in Tver Oblast at a surprisingly low height of 228 m (748 ft). About 100 meters to the left of that bridge you can still see (I wonder for how long) the remains of the River Terminal or River Station (Тверской речной вокзал) about the recent collapse of which I wrote here.
The bridge you see on the right is called “the old bridge” and it was “moved” to Tver after WWII from its original place in Saint Petersburg, both because after the utter destruction brought about by the war Tver desperately needed new infrastructures, fast, and because it is not a tilt bridge and Saint Petersburg need those to ensure navigation in the ice free months (you can read a bit more about that in this post). Finally, the building with the two towers, toward the center of the image is not an old castle, but the Zvezda Cinema, built in 1937 and still operating as a movie theatre today.
I took the feature image of this post with an old, trusty, Fujifilm X100. In spite of being a six year old camera, I still love the quality of images it produces, its versatility and, maybe most of all, its light, compact size. That is why whenever I don’t feel (or it is just too impractical) to lug around my beloved DSLR and lenses and bells and whistles, I still try to take the little Fuji with me. I also really like (well, let’s say 80% of the times) how well it stitches pictures together in the “panorama mode” without any visible seam. Yes, you read it right, the picture above is a 120 degrees panorama taken on a single lens, six-year-old, compact camera with auto panorama function. But this should not be a praise for the little camera, but rather a photo tip, right? So here are two:
- I know it has been said a million times and you are sick of hearing it, but let me say it once more: it is you, not your gear, that makes the pictures. Sure, I would love to own a Phase One system, but even if I had the 40 to 70 THOUSAND US Dollars it takes to buy camera, back and a good lens, I would some days not be able to carry it all around, while still wanting to take pictures with my compact camera or even (gasp!) my phone… and I could. Would the results be better with a Phase One? Most of the times they certainly would, but a good picture taken with what you have is still 1.000 million times better that no picture because you don’t have your best equipment with you!
- The secret to this kind of sunset shots is simply to underexpose A LOT your image when you shoot it. In this case I underexposed by two full stops, after metering toward the sky, so as not to blow the highlight, to retain all the color information of the sunset, and this caused everything else to turn pitch black, which I like as an effect. If you don’t know how to underexpose, or if you just can’t (for instance because you are shooting with your phone), at least try to meter for the light in the brightest part of your image (usually the sky) otherwise you will end up with dark-ish grey-ish buildings and foreground and a still washed out sky almost completely white.
Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking photographer (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions, while helping you to improve your technique and take home some spectacular images of the largest country on Earth? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!