Sometimes you just get lucky

… and you are at the right place, at the right time to get one of the best shots of your life. This has happened to me only once. But the shot was truly memorable. Some 10-12 years ago, one afternoon (don’t even remember what season it was) I decided to get my camera and tripod and head to the beach to see if I could find anything interesting to photograph. So, I got there around one-two hours before sunset and starting photographing things that I found interesting, such as these boats.

Boats Small
Small boats and their reflection in a harbor near Thessaloniki – Greece

Then as sunset approached, I looked towards the see and saw this: (!!!)

Old Friend Small
Spectacular sunset at the seaside

One of the most breathtaking sunset scenes I had seen in my life. I set the tripod, set the shot, had the good sense to use an ND filter (don’t remember whether it was one or two stops) and started shooting. This was the time when I was still using a film camera and 50 ISO Velvia slides film. So not having the benefit of seeing the photograph as it was produced and not having any post processing possibility, I bracketed in both directions and reframed the photograph (slightly), changed the ND filter (both position and value), to make sure that one shot would be perfect. The light was quite generous to me as the scene lasted around twenty minutes giving me ample time to do all that I wanted to do.

After the sun went down, I packed camera, lenses and filters and picked up the tripod to head back. I had actually turned my back to the sea to go home, when I looked back and saw a sky on fire. It was an utterly spectacular scene, completely different from that of fifteen minutes ago. Here it is:

Red Clouds Small
Sky on fire

I took several more photographs then. I don’t remember if I used a tripod, filters, etc. This time I didn’t have much time, the whole thing lasted around five to ten minutes. So I didn’t have any time to bracket shots or play with filters and different framing. Still I took a couple of photographs that I liked in the end:

Green Light Small
Harbor light against a red background
Red clouds close up small
Who wants to row when the sky looks so red?
Sky on fire small
Yes, it was really that good!
Sunset boat small
Lonely boat

When the film got processed and I got the slides back I couldn’t be happier. The photographs were tack sharp; the colors beautiful; some lens vignetting hadn’t been avoided, in fact it had been accentuated at the top by the ND filter, but given the quality of my lens I was still very happy.

There is problem with slides: there is not much an amateur can do with them. A couple of years later I had them scanned and (this is what you see here) was completely disappointed with the result. The resolution of the scan was only 3500×2500, nothing to do with the resolution of the Velvia film. The sharpness had all but disappeared. The colors resembled the originals but not completely; and the overall exposure was way off. I have tried improving the result in Photoshop, but apart from some very basic tinkering, there wasn’t much I could do. Still, the slides are there somewhere; maybe in the future I will find a better scanning opportunity.

This was the first of a series of posts I will do from time to time with some favorite, old photos I have, so stay tuned.

© Epameinondas Stamos 2004

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