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Sundays on the Bay: A sunset ride out to Smith Point

Sundays on the Bay appears most Sundays and showcases the work of photographer Michael Busch of Great South Bay Images — along with some explanation about his shots.


On Monday night I noticed some high clouds before Sunset and grabbed my son for a quick ride to Smith Point Beach. In the fall and winter I would have hit one of my favorite local spots on the Great South Bay instead, but the summer sunset is too far north.

High clouds can be tricky, if the sun doesn’t get a chance to drop below the cloud deck it could be a waste of time.

As we pulled up to the Smith Point fishing pier, the clouds started to light up.

F11 1/25 Iso 100 14-24mm Wide Angle

F11 1/25 Iso 100 14-24mm Wide Angle

I made the decision to use my favorite lens (24-70 2.8) and set up a time lapse by clamping a camera to the fishing pier. That left me with just my wide angle lens. This was probably a mistake because It would have been better to get a little tighter on the bridge.  Keeping a steady hand here was key as the low light left me with a relatively slow shutter speed. Any kind of movement would result with a blurry shot.

F11 1/15 ISO 100 14-24mm wide

F11 1/15 ISO 100 14-24mm wide

This shot works a little better with a more interesting foreground.  Shutter slowed to 1/15 seconds, almost too dark to hand hold.

F11 1/15 ISO 100 14-24mm wide

F11 1/15 ISO 100 14-24mm wide

As you can see, I am basically staying with the same settings.  Aperture mode takes a lot of the guesswork out of the way. I use F11 because it allows most of the shot to stay in focus; I let the camera figure out the proper shutter speed for a good exposure. If you want to get a starburst effect from the sun you can go up to F22 but that will also let any dust on your sensor appear to be on the image. 

F14 ¼ of second 14-24 wide

F14 ¼ of second 14-24 wide

Here I went up to F14 knowing I wanted as much of the boardwalk in focus while keeping the sky sharp, too.  I really should have been using my tripod here, ¼ of a second is pushing the envelope to hand hold the camera but I got away with it.

1/20 F5.24-70 at 24mm

1/20 F5.24-70 at 24mm

 For this one I changed lenses to the 24-70 2.8, which is known for its sharpness and low light capability.

F10 1/20 24-70 at 70mm

F10 1/20 24-70 at 70mm

 At this point the sky really lit up as the sun dropped below the horizon.

I finally broke down and stabilized the camera on a clamp; it was way too dark to hand hold.  I also went in as tight as possible to get some detail out of the clouds. 

 F13 1.2 seconds 14mm

F13 1.2 seconds 14mm

For this last shot, I stabilized the camera to a piece of wood.  The low light now brought the shutter speed to 1.2 seconds, giving the water a smoothing effect. 

The pier lights had just come on as well giving it a little more interest.

About the author: Michael Busch

Michael Busch is an award-winning photographer from Brookhaven Hamlet who specializes in landscape, seascape, wildlife and aviation photography. Follow his Great South Bay Images all over social media.