CAN WE TALK?? Photography Tip #21


Whenever Joan Rivers wanted to get serious and have a real discussion, she would look you straight in the eye and say “Can we talk?”.  That’s somewhat how I feel about this first shot.  I captured this particular sunset about 6 weeks ago and I immediately fell in love with the colors!  But I had issues with the composition. (That’s why I waited so long to publish it.  Don’t get me wrong.  All sunsets are magnificent, but some better than others.)  Specifically, the sun is constantly changing its position in the sky and this particular time of the year it moves so far north it creates a dilemma with the photographic composition.

Someone once said (and I really wish I could remember who), “A sunset without a subject is ordinary at best.”  Essentially, your sunset should be the canvas you use to create the extraordinary image that causes everyone to step back and go, “WOW!” They went on to explain that while a sunset is your focal point, it still needs something of interest to complete the “WOW!” factor you’re looking to create.

Now when it comes to Huntington Beach,  there is but one image that is iconic and synonymous with the city – that being the Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier.  In fact, you’ll notice it in nearly every sunset print you see.  But in the first image as you can see, the sun is setting so far to the north that Ruby’s is clearly a distant shadow.  So if the setting sun is the focal point, obviously the Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier is not prominent enough to become the object of interest.  Also because of its distance from the setting sun, including Ruby’s in the frame caused me to utilize a wider angle that I would normally use in order to include the end of the pier.  Actually, because of its proximity to the sun, it would seem the lifeguard tower would by default be the object of interest.

Huntington Beach Sunset 1

Are you with me, so far?    

So, what should I do?  Should I omit the Ruby’s?  Should I exclude the end of the pier?  Many of you left favorable comments about this image, and I have to admit that I like it too.  But, can it be better?  Maybe…maybe not.

Let’s talk about it.

In the second sunset, notice the position of the sun.  This image was captured on December 22, 2010.  This is a similar perspective as the first sunset, but obviously a much tighter crop.  Can you see how the sun has changed its position over the past four months?  While the colors are more optimal in the first sunset, I believe the second creates more interest.  The fact that you have the sun actually setting behind Catalina Island is somewhat unusual.  The placement of Ruby’s Diner creates an iconic silhouette adjacent to the setting sun.  But the real interest to me is the two people watching the sun slip into the horizon.  It makes me wonder, “What’s their story?”.  

Huntington Beach Sunset 2

Since I wasn’t completely satisfied with the first sunset, I decided to change the perspective with a portrait crop to tighten the interest within the image.  I noticed the sunlight coming through the lifeguard tower windows created an interest quality all its own and decided to crop into the frame to make that a bit more evident.  

Is it better?  Or, is this particular sunset a lost cause?

Huntington Beach Sunset 3

I did learn one thing from this experience.  I never give up on an image.  There is something that keeps drawing me back.

Do you prefer the first image?  Or, do you prefer the last image with the portrait crop??  Maybe you happen to like the first image better.  That’s fantastic!  I love to hear differing perspectives.  Quite often one of you will mention something I have failed to see or think about.  I hope that happens here.  If you happen to prefer the last image, that’s fine too!  But maybe you have different reasons behind your thoughts.  I would love to hear those, as well.  Let’s fill the page with this discussion.

While the perfect crop is important, what are the factors that determine that perfect crop?

So, lean in a little closer.  Can we talk??


Huntington Beach, California

Bob Zeller sent me this crop.  He preferred the closer crop, but in the original landscape format.  What do you think?


Or, what about a panorama crop?

Huntington Beach, California

What do you think of this one?  I actually found where I had already cropped it in this format.  As you can readily see, cropping your image is very important but totally up to the individual.  Choose your favorite and let us know which one it is.

~ by photographyfree4all on May 18, 2011.

17 Responses to “CAN WE TALK?? Photography Tip #21”

  1. I’m partial to #3, the colors are spectactular – but I’d change up the crop a bit if it were mine. I’d get rid of the two lights on the right side of the image and extend the crop on the left side to the 3rd set of lights, just where that longish cloud comes to an end. YMMV!


  2. I love both images, but I think I very slightly prefer the second cropped version because of the people silhouetted on the pier being easier to make out, and also that section of cloud isolated looks great too.


  3. Hi Steve. I took the liberty of cropping the first one and sent it to you by direct e-mail. I didn’t know how to include it in a reply. You can check it out. I cropped it as a horizontal and a little tighter.


  4. The first shot is OK, the second shot of Ruby’s is spectacular! For me it is all about the sunset and that is where my eye goes immediately when I view it. The Ruby’s silhouette needs to be there to set it off by contrasting with it. I just isn’t the focal point for me.

    Now to your crop. When I looked at it I liked it but it again wasn’t about the tower. It was about color and reflection! the sunset comes on in vivid reds and yellows but it is what those colors do to the beach and the surf that are stellar. You have captured orchid, lavender, slate, mauve and marine blue/black as the sun’s fading rays played there.

    Were I to crop your photo I would concentrate more on the sun and surf’s interplay of color. You will still need the tower and the people to give the viewer an understanding of setting and for contrast, but again, to me it all about color and reflection. JMHO ~ Lynda


  5. Thanks, Derrick! I’ll give that a look-see! Did youleave it in the portrait format, or change it to landscape? Thanks for kicking off the discussion, Derrick! Let’s see where it goes now. 🙂


  6. Hi Kieran. I think the cropped image gives you more detail, both of the people and the sky. It seems better to me, but I wonder if there are those who would prefer the complete shot for some reason. I hope we find out! Thanks for your comment. It all adds to this discussion. Jump in again if you want to. 🙂


  7. Hi there, Bob! I haven’t received the email as yet. I wonder if you could resend? When I get it, I may enter it into the post to see what everyone thinks! Thanks, Bob! It’s a great discussion. 🙂


  8. I sent it to your e-mail scthomas@apu.ed and it keeps coming back.


  9. Hey, Bob. Somehow you’ve omitted the last u in the address.



  10. What a great comment, Lynda!! And so much detail. Let’s see what we’ve got here…

    Exactly how I felt initially about the first shot. I loved the colors – but thought it lacked interest.

    Thank you for your kind words about the second sunset shot! I think we’re agreeing here. The sun is definitely the focal point – your eye goes to that detail first. Ruby’s adds the interest. And, probably the last thing you might notice is the people. But for me, once I notice them it makes me wonder about their story! That’s just my curious side, I guess. I have all these questions – Are they together? What are they talking about? Are they dreaming? It’s really what I read into any image that includes people.

    And finally, it is all about the color with this one, isn’t it! I’ll continue to experiment.

    Thanks for all your thoughts and ideas, Lynda! Great to see you here in the middle of this discussion! 🙂


  11. Okay, I re-sent it. I might mention, that to me it is all about the sunset. Not Ruby’s. 🙂


  12. Git it, Bob! It looks good. I’m going to work with my original tonight and possibly tag it to the post. Thanks! 🙂


  13. Ok, Bob. Check out the new crop. I didn’t have your email, so I tried to crop it as best I could from memory. I like it! Thanks for sending it to me. 🙂


  14. I definitely prefer the first photo. The entire pier is a nice feature of this beautiful and magnificent panorama of the spectacular sky.


  15. Thanks, Steve. I like it very much. Your panorama is okay, but it doesn’t jump out at you like the one you have across the top of your blog.


  16. Beautiful!! My personal opinion….I like the crop and panorama via the internet. I bet the panorama would be a beautiful print. How about this… crop for blog and panorama for print. 🙂 Very nice work Steve.


  17. Thank you, Janice! Your comments mean a lot to me!! 🙂


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