The sky looked like it was on fire one night after work while walking to my car. My team and I had just wrapped up a deployment we were working on and I was planning on hitting up DTLA to shoot some cityscapes. I was floored by how cool the sky looked. Thankfully I already had my camera on me. People love Southern California for its perfect weather all year round. Our weather is a little too perfect though. We never get a real autumn with leaves that turn colors or cloudy sunsets with vibrant colors swirling throughout the sky. We do get some cloudy sunsets but it doesn’t happen a lot. I always have to have my camera with me for that one chance we might get a really sweet sunset. When we do get one, they are absolutely stunning.
The sky had taken me completely off guard when I was leaving. I had my camera on me but my tripod was still in the trunk of my car. With the sky literally changing every second, there was no time to grab my tripod. I had to think on the fly and try various options. I used my 70-200mm lens at 70mm as opposed to a wide angle lens to narrow the viewer’s focus and eliminate distracting elements that a wide angle lens would’ve introduced. Since I had no tripod, I tried a big aperture (small F stop) to let more light in combined with a fast shutter speed to reduce camera shake from hand holding the camera. This setup’s problem was that the big aperture combined with a telephoto lens gave me a very small depth of field and threw the trees out of focus.
My other option to get everything in focus was to use a small aperture (big F stop) with a fast shutter speed. To avoid underexposure with my new settings, I cranked the ISO up to 1000 to increase the camera’s sensitivity to light as much as possible while still maintaining good image quality with little to no grain. A good rule of thumb when hand holding a camera is to use a shutter speed that is no slower than the focal length you are using. Since I was shooting at 70mm, I should have used 1/70th of a second or faster for my shutter speed but I was able to tuck my arms into my sides and hold the camera steady enough to still get a sharp shot at 1/40th of a second. The final result is this hand held image shot at 1/40th of a second at f/14 with ISO 1000.