Rocky Mountain Sunset by Todd Henson

Rocky Mountain Sunset. The setting sun turns the Rocky Mountains into dark silhouettes engulfed in a soft orange glow.

Every so often you’re presented with a scene that leaves you speechless in its beauty. So you grab the camera and attempt to capture some of the magic playing out in front of you. A still image, even a video, can rarely fully capture such a personal experience, but we can still try to create something that will evoke some of what we see, of what we feel, hoping it will move others, even if not in the same ways it moved us.

Dreaming of Denver. I dream of Denver, facing west, watching the setting sun set the sky afire, rays of soft filtered light rippling over the silhouetted peaks of the Rocky Mountains. It brings warmth even on the coldest of nights.

Such was my experience one evening during a short trip to Denver, Colorado, many years ago. It was not a photography trip, but I did have my camera with me. I returned to my hotel room close to sunset and saw the sky lighting up outside my window. It was incredible, the colors and the light rays through the clouds, how they created silhouettes of the mountains. I wiped the window clean, put the lens to the window, and began creating images, trying to find which portions of the skyline seemed most compelling. There was so much to see, and the light was changing so quickly, I couldn’t capture it all. But in the end I was pleased with some of the images I did create.

Technical Talk

At first I tried using a wide angle lens to capture as much of the scene as I could. But this just pushed the mountains further into the distance, making them look smaller than I saw them. The mountains were such a strong element to what I was seeing I wanted to focus on them. So I switched to a telephoto lens to get in closer to the mountains, to capture the light playing through the clouds and over their peaks. These photos were shot between 190 - 200 mm.

The aperture didn’t matter much as everything was at such a distance depth of field wasn’t an issue. I chose f/9. Raising the ISO to 320 let me use a shutter speed of 1/320 second. I was hand holding the camera so I wanted a fast enough shutter speed to reduce the risk of camera shake introducing blur. 1/320 second seemed appropriate for a 200 mm lens on a crop sensor.

I was fortunate to have a room off the ground floor. I don’t recall exactly what floor, but it was the 3rd or 4th. This gave me enough height to look out on the mountains without anything distracting in the foreground. I did choose to include a small bit of foreground at the bottom of each image. I like the way this helped frame the scene, and how the setting sun created a rim light as it shone behind the foreground elements.

I hope this helps remind you there can be subjects worth photographing almost anywhere, even in your own hotel room.

Both of these photographs are available for purchase through my online store, run by Fine Art America / Pixels. You can find them under the titles, Dreaming of Denver and Rocky Mountain Sunset.

Dreaming of Denver

Dreaming of Denver

Rocky Mountain Sunset

Rocky Mountain Sunset