The sunset gods must have been smiling upon me that afternoon, for it was one of the most intense light displays I have ever seen.
It was my second trip to this small island of Bulubadiangan (the first one, some years back did not yield any remarkable sunset or sunrise photos). Bulubadiangan seemed even smaller due to the fact the we are “constrained” on the northern tip of the island where the sandbar is. But on the upside, I had a clear and unobstructed view of both the western and eastern skies.
The tide receded by mid afternoon, revealing a rather featureless area of cream sand, small rocks and patches of sea grasses. Or so I thought, until I found these bright luminescent seaweed patch just a few meters from our hut. Perfect foreground to contrast with the stark surroundings. Now all I need is great light.
Sunset time was fast approaching and it did not look promising. Heavy clouds loomed over the western sky, plus the fact that the main island of Panay will block the sun by the time that its just a few seconds from finally dipping below the horizon.
I took some long exposure shots on the other direction while waiting for the conditions to change. Using a 9-stop ND filter (dark glass that will lessen the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor), made some over-1 minute exposures. I was hoping for faster cloud movement, but there was not much wind so everything is still. Well at least I would not have to worry too much about wind rocking my setup later.
One of my friends kept saying: “don’t worry, the light will come”. And it did come! I happily shot using pre-visualized compositions highlighting the seaweeds. I thought of shooting using longer exposures (for more pronounced cloud movements) but decided against it as I am just hand holding my GND filter (graduated neutral density filter used to tame the bright lights in the sky) and it would be very difficult to keep my hand still for over a minute.
I only had one chance to shoot using a different composition before the colors faded.
I did my best the next morning to peel myself off the straw mat. The cold wind did not help at all. The sky looked overcast so my wife and I stuffed ourselves in a comfy hammock and decided to just watch the sun come up. But of course I have my setup ready nearby, just in case. My wife probably knew we were not outside just to watch the sunrise together, I was waiting for something to shoot. Scratch the “probably” part, she knew. She just smiled when I finally jumped out of the hammock and ran to my setup when the light got better.