A few weeks back my son and I were checking out a Midwestern countryside when we noticed a strange ball of color floating above the horizon.  I’d never seen anything like it so I decided to stop and grab a picture.  Already running through my mind were the beginnings of a composition.  From our location all we could see was a ball of color and treetops, no rainbows, no explanation for the color ball, and other than taking a picture of just the sky or the sky and treetops there was no obvious composition available

Canon 1ds Mark II, 135mm F2L USM @F8 1/1250th ISO 100

 

A few weeks back my son and I were checking out a Midwestern countryside when we noticed a strange ball of color floating above the horizon.  I’d never seen anything like it so I decided to stop and grab a picture.  Already running through my mind were the beginnings of a composition.  From our location all we could see was a ball of color and treetops, no rainbows, no explanation for the color ball, and other than taking a picture of just the sky or the sky and treetops there was no obvious composition available.

The decision was made to keep driving dead ahead until some kind of composition possibility presented itself.  With only 10 minutes until sunset we knew there wasn’t much time, and sure enough with each passing minute the brightness and depth of color of this phenomenon was diminishing.  Picking up the pace we hoped to find a suitable composition sooner, but we knew the increased speed might lead to us missing a slim opportunity.

Finally we spotted a tree in the distance.  It wasn’t much of a tree, but this is the Midwest where a tree is often used as a landmark.  We stopped with mere minutes to spare before the sun and our colorful phenomena disappeared forever.  Grabbing the body with the most appropriate lens I quickly changed my settings to accommodate the lower light levels, braced against the car for extra stability, took a deep breath and let it out halfway, and then gently squeezed the shutter release.  A moment later the sun dropped below the horizon and the color ball was gone.  It really was that close.

 

Finally we spotted a tree in the distance.  It wasn’t much of a tree, but this is the Midwest where a tree is often used as a landmark.  We stopped with mere minutes to spare before the sun and our colorful phenomena disappeared forever.  Grabbing the body with the most appropriate lens I quickly changed my settings to accommodate the lower light levels, braced against the car for extra stability, took a deep breath and let it out halfway, and then gently squeezed the shutter release.  A moment later the sun dropped below the horizon and the color ball was gone.  It really was that close.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 135mm F2L USM @F8 1/1250th ISO 100

 

I wasn’t sure if the exposure was close enough to show the color ball, and I was using my 7 year old body where the controls were in different places than my more current Canon 5d Mark II.  Basically I let muscle memory take over and made the capture.  I considered reviewing it on my rear LCD but the tiny LCD on this vintage DSLR is near worthless for meaningful preview.  All considered I figured I’d find out when I arrived home and brought it up on the workstation monitor.  I didn’t think about it again for a few weeks until I had a reason to offload the CF card.

With a small bit of cropping I straightened the horizon and showed the color ball almost directly over the lone tree in a field.  I’m not sure what the blurry lines are coming from the ground by the tree?  A small adjustment to the white balance, a bit more contrast added through levels, and a small amount of sharpening later I had the image.

I’m still not sure what the color ball is, but I decided I liked the composition of the lone tree against a cloudy skyline.  The color ball adds to it, but I’m undecided if the addition is negative or positive.  Your thoughts?

The second image is the same image, but converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.  I like this better, but the color ball blends and disappears.