Today’s Sunset: the Deepest, Truest Orange I Have Ever Seen
First Photo of the Evening facing due west  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/400 sec, f/4.5, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
First Photo of the Evening
facing due west

This evening we had perhaps the most stunning sunset I have ever seen.

Sadly, I saw it from the photographically-unappealing vantage of the fifth-floor walkway in my condo, but at least I got to see it. When I first caught a glimpse, I literally sprinted for the elevator, and the photo above is the first I snapped when I got up there.

Unrealistic it was actually more amazing than this facing south-west  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 120 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Unrealistic
it was actually more amazing than this
facing south-west

(By the way, that's Kyoto Tower in the lower left, seen previously on my blog here, here, here, and here)

Some sunsets have a mesmerizing mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and a deep blue from the sky. Not this one. It had orange. Where it wasn't orange, it was overcast gray, and where it was orange, it was searing, deep, rich, monochromatic orange and nothing else.

Bands of Color  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Bands of Color

Sadly, those oranges were completely out of the range of colors that my D700 could capture, and even more-so out of range than can fit into an sRGB color space, and super-duper wildly out of range of what a modern consumer monitor can display. As a result, these images likely appear, depending on your monitor, as a muddy mix of oranges, pinks, and yellows.

I've written about this “pushing bright colors toward white” problem that plagues digital image processing, and it certainly rears its ugly head here. There wasn't the slightest tinge of red, yellow, or pink in today's sunset – not the slightest – yet when I first excitedly loaded the images into Lightroom, they were all generally yellow instead of orange, with the brightest areas white instead of deeply rich (but bright) orange. The color channels were unevenly clipped, yielding a shift in this case from red to yellow, and eventually to white.

I ended up spending considerable time twiddling the develop dials in Lightroom to try to return the colors to reality, but in doing so, I had to lower the brightness of the entire scene so that all the color channels would no longer be clipped. The end result is that I get oranges that are as close as Lightroom my mid-level semi-pro Eizo monitor can produce, but the shadows are now much darker than they really were. Considering the unphotogenic nature of the cityscape view from my place, this darkening is perhaps a feature. 🙂

Wispy and Finely Detailed  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
Wispy and Finely Detailed
Portrait-Mode Desktop-Background Versions
1050×1680  ·  1200×1920  ·  1600×2560     

But then I take those mostly-okay colors that yield pretty dazzling pictures, and squeeze the life out of them by shoving them into the sRGB color space that is the de facto standard on the web, and further wring out and discard the last bit of amazement by viewing them on with the highly-limited color rendering of my MacBook LCD. Sigh. They appear muddy and splotchy.

Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 86 mm — 1/250 sec, f/9, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Portrait-Mode Desktop-Background Versions
1050×1680  ·  1200×1920  ·  1600×2560     

Due to the way the sun was hitting the clouds from below (and often, shining through the wispy underside so that they sort of seemed to glow from within), the view was constantly shifting and changing.

The wave-like clouds in the next shot kept drawing my attention, but most of the detail is lost in these shots. Sigh again.

Freaky Clouds  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 110 mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Freaky Clouds

Basically, I'm at a loss on how to capture a scene like this.

I'm sure you're thinking that I created these vast fields of color (muddy or not) during post processing, and frankly, I don't blame you. I'd never believe that these nuclear-winter kinds of views could possibly be real if I hadn't seen it myself. It was a once-in-a-lifetime-(so far) event. I'll be 84 before I see another like it, if this rate holds.

It makes the last sunset I posted from my condo's fifth-floor walkway seem utterly pathetic.

Come to think of it, it makes every sunset I've ever posted seem pathetic, including this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and sunrises too: this, and this.

My scale for beautiful sunsets has been totally reset, but I still don't know how to photograph them even remotely well.


All 10 comments so far, oldest first...

Nice shots! This takes me back more than 10 years, to a walk I was taking by the river with my wife. Very similar clouds and lighting conditions. The best sunset I ever experienced! At the time, I was shooting film.

Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t as impressed as I was at the natural display and was getting hungry. She was patient for a while, then pressed to get some food. I took my pictures, then headed off to find food. As we were in line at some fast food place, I could see the sunset getting even BETTER! Turning from oranges to reds to approaching purplish … Amazing.

You did well to get the colors you did. And I’ve been enjoying Anthony’s continuing adventures.

Chris

— comment by Chris on November 11th, 2008 at 10:38pm JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

This reminds me of a sunset in Kyoto in 2003. Haven’t seen one like it since then. Unfortunately, now that I have a small clue about how to take a picture, I missed today’s spectacle. Hope I don’t have to wait another 5 years. Here’s a pic from 2003 if that’s ok to post here.

Wow, that indeed does look similar. Wonderful shot! I take it that the streaks of yellow are the color-channel clipping that I mentioned in the post… it creates a look of its own, but I wish technology would advance a bit, but I suspect God will remain in the lead with respect to color rendering. —Jeffrey

— comment by Chris McCooey on November 11th, 2008 at 11:04pm JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Very nice shots I think. Have a love-hate relationship with the Kyoto Tower. On one hand, its the most kitchy, ugliest architectural statement ever to blemish an otherwise beautiful city. But on the other hand, I have to confess I used it more than once to orient myself back in the day, while walking through the city.

I’ve heard that sentiment many times before, but I’ve got to admit that I don’t find it that bad. It’s lit up with a blueish light at night these days, and I think the “lightup” aspect makes it an attractive focal point. It’s old, but then, so is the Statue of Liberty. 😉 —Jeffrey

— comment by Bob on November 11th, 2008 at 11:14pm JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

“…these images likely appear, depending on your monitor, as as a muddy mix of oranges, pinks, and yellows.”

If that’s muddy, I want to live in mud.

Shawn

Maybe I should have said “splotchy” 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Shawnster the Monster on November 12th, 2008 at 12:27am JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

“I wish technology would advance a bit, but I suspect God will remain in the lead with respect to color rendering. ”

You’re DAMN RIGHT!

— comment by God on November 12th, 2008 at 12:30am JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

The colors are spectacular, but I find them somewhat eerie. I kind of expect to see the silhouettes of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping over the horizon in some of those shots.

— comment by Marcina on November 13th, 2008 at 12:03am JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

We don’t need better monitors…we just need to hack into our visual cortex.

Wait 50-100 years and you’ll be able to see anything your mind can imagine 🙂

— comment by Andrew S on November 13th, 2008 at 8:21pm JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

amazing colors. the only time i have seen similar sunsets was about 20 years ago in the desert of arizona.

and thanks for your cool ligthroom plugins!!!

— comment by olaf_d on November 18th, 2008 at 1:30am JST (9 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I was out walking with my son on some errand when that sunset hit, and everything lit up pink. I only had my mobile phone with me, so I took a feeble portrait of my son and thought, “I hope Jeffrey is getting this.”

Even your great pictures can’t do it justice, though. It was ethereal.

— comment by nils on November 18th, 2008 at 6:45pm JST (9 years ago) comment permalink

Once again, you have captured some lovely sights in Kyoto that I have never seen.

Thanks for sharing your colorful Kyoto so well with the rest of us who don’t have

the same opportunities. I have seen some beautiful sunsets, but none of them

match the ones you have found for us in Kyoto. Father Mac

— comment by Father Mac on November 22nd, 2011 at 8:57pm JST (6 years ago) comment permalink
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