Blue Geese, Red Sky
Posted on 25 December 2012
Blue Geese, Red Sky. Central Valley, California. December 11, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Ross’s geese, blue in the fading light of the overhead evening sky, fly against the reds of a wild Central Valley sunset
Back in early December, 2012 we were out photographing migratory birds in California’s Central Valley, on a day that began with extremely thick tule fog, gradually transitioned to hazy sunshine, then was interrupted by the atmospheric muck of an incoming weather system, and ended with a surprising and astonishing sunset and post-sunset display of color. It seems that there must have been a gap between the clouds and the horizon somewhere far to our west, and as the sun dropped to the horizon the late and very red light shone up into the clouds, turning them blood-red (and, at times, pink and purple and orange and more.)
Right before this we had been parked near a very large flock of geese that were mostly grounded, but which would occasionally take off en masse and circle for a bit before settling back in, often quite close to where they started. I had been tracking and photographing them in the somewhat gloomy light, and when the brilliantly colorful sky arrived I was ready to try to take advantage of it. This created a challenge though, that is probably familiar to anyone who has photographed such a sky. It is very bright and (important to those shooting digital systems) very red – which means that it can be necessary to underexpose a bit to avoid seeing very strange things happen to the red channel in the image file. In addition, since I was shooting straight into this brilliant light here, the geese were backlit. So, in post I was faced with a couple of contradictory issues – I had to control the brightness of the sky while trying to regain a bit of detail on the bodies of the backlit and rather dark birds! About the “blue geese, red sky” title… Because the dimmer light falling on the portions of the geese facing me was largely diffused light from a non-colorful (e.g. – blue) part of the sky, their white feathers registered very much as blue.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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