Tequila Sunset – Decoded

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UAE has been suprisngly blessed with amazingly overcast days through this week. Thick dense clouds, cool breeze and extraordinary sunrise/sunset. Its funny how these beautiful weather shows up during weekdays and disappears during weekends. This sunday the clouds were so darn beautiful, it was obvious that the sunset was going to be a treat. ( PS : Sunday is Middle Easts Monday – we call it SUNDAY BLUES in this part of the world).

Just around sunset, I positioned myself in what I consider as THE BEST spot for long exposure in UAE ( Al Aqqa Fujairah and this spot in Ajman happens to be my most visited spots in UAE without a doubt). When it comes to long exposures, ND 1000 is something I cant live without. Been shooting with ND1000 for almost a year now. But this time around, decided not to use the ND and rather shoot filterless, just to tease myself to get out of comfy zone. Had my whole kit with me with choice of 6 cameras, but again, decided to use the most basic and my oldest partner Nikon D3100. If D800 had feelings, I am sure this decision would have done a lot of damage to its ego 😉 

So, no filters, Basic D3100 with Tokina 12-24mm and THE MOST AMAZING SUNSET EVER. Enjoyed the beautiful sunset with coffee and a smoke as I waited for the sun to slip through the horizon. Once I knew the light was just about right, it was time to do some magic. 

This blog is about how to get it right with the most basic equipments and a bit of Lightroom and Photoshop post processing. I don’t usually use photoshop, as lightroom does almost everything that I need ( given I do just basic touch ups, lightroom is a blessing to photogs like me who wish to edit in less than a minute). But there are times when photoshop becomes essential. For me, photoshop never was and never would be an editing* software. Photoshop just serves my need to merge images, especially in case of star trail photography and like in this case, blending of 2 images of different exposures. So once or twice in a year, I do open photoshop 😉 

Below is the final output of the blended image. 


Here’s the secret of how it was shot. The scene was difficult. It was hard to properly expose the sky and the foreground water in a single shot without the use of any filter. Given that I have played with ND 1000, I know the trick of trade on how to get it right with just one single exposure. But I wasn’t using the ND1000 – thats how ‘stubborn-me’ works. So the only way to get it right was by exposing one picture for the sky and the other for the foreground. Many may wonder how about bracketing, I am a ‘manual-to-the-core’ kind of guy. Bracketing doesn’t give full control of the shots, camera makes good amount of decisions in that case, which never works for me. So bracketing has never been and will never be an option for my kind of photography. 

Exposure for sky (Background) : 

The first picture I took was exposed for the sky. All that mattered with this shot was to get the colors and details of the sunset without any clippings. The foreground exposure of rocks and water was completely ignored in this picture. So as a result I got a photo which had the tequila sunset perfectly exposed and the foreground underexposed, as seen below.


EXIF : f10 30s ISO 100 (Metering on sky)

Exposure for Water/Rocks (Foreground) : 

Now that the first photograph underexposed the foreground, it was now important to get a second shot of the scene with foreground properly exposed while background completely ignored. So result was a well exposed foreground and an overexposed sky, as seen below. 


EXIF : f10 60s ISO 100. (Metering on rocks)

Next step was to edit these images in lightroom to match my taste. Once done, pictures were blended in photoshop using layers, masks, brushes, blah blah and more blah. It took me less than a minute to edit them in lightroom and hardly 3 minutes to blend them in photoshop. I wish I could explain in detail about how to blend them in photoshop, but unfortunately I am not technically qualified to talk anything about photoshop at all 😉 A technically sound guy would have spent another half an hour working on each pixel to get the “Blending” spot on, but I invest that time on field while I shoot rather than on my mac. So, four minutes and I am done with my shot. It was a 4 minute edit because I had nothing much to correct in the images, each of the pic had the respective elements well exposed, all I had to do was blend. ( Alternatives like, Bracket 9 images, blend them manually inch by inch for an hour or HDR these 9 bracketed images to bring out a result which hardly resembles planet earth – never works for me at least ) Keep it simple. 


Nikon D3100 – Tokina 12-24mm – No filters.

So there you go, never complain about not having a pro camera or this-that filter or anything of that sort. Get out of  “I need” syndrome and concentrate on shooting and enhancing your knowledge. Spend more time on field shooting than on editing. End of the day, your shot reflects you, so better make them look good 😉 

Happy Clicking



About subodhshetty

This entry was posted in Long Exposures, Perspectives, Photographic Locations, photography, Silhouettes, Tips and Tutorials and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Tequila Sunset – Decoded

  1. solmagic says:

    Incredible shot. Very very cool. I love it!

  2. geoffwatt says:

    Great shot, and nice tutorial!

  3. Wow…well explained…. it luks so simple in ur words….but sure its damn difficult for us 2 shoot dat perfectly… lots 2 learn frm u Subodh… God bless…

    • subodhshetty says:

      Thanks Russell, cant deny that there is a good amount of technical knowledge applied to get them right when shooting, but now that you are part of Photowalk Dubai, nothing is impossible 😉 Cheers

  4. Subodh !Nice click & post !I am new to blending & HDR i agree ,is mostly overdone killing the natural appearance. Keep inspiring.

    • subodhshetty says:

      Thanks Jai, i totally understand what you mean by killing the appearance of the image with HDR, been there done that 🙂 . This simple blending not only saves your time but also makes you a thinking photographer as you shoot ( rather than spray and pray). So give it a try, cheers

  5. Chetan says:

    Brilliant Subodh. As always, u inspire!!

  6. subodhshetty says:

    Appreciate the likes given to this blog by each of you fellow bloggers, Overwhelmed. Thank You .

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