I've been wanting to capture this shot for over a month now. I commute on a East/West bound highway in Los Angeles for work. Recently, every day on the way home (driving directly West through the San Gabriel foothills) the sunsets have been amazing. I was inspired to scout a location where I could capture the sunset and also incorporate the freeway traffic into the shot.
While on my way home I would look for a location that had a direct view of the west and also be somehow elevated above the freeway a bit. At first I was looking for somewhere in the foothills that had a good view, but since the mountains run East-West, any spot that looked plausible did not have a clear view of the West.
I came to the conclusion that a freeway overpass would be my best bet. So I narrowed my search to freeway overpasses that were elevated and had unobstructed views of the West. I managed to find one in La Verne, CA that is situated where the freeway rises in elevation a bit and also where it curves to the South so the Westward view isn't blocked by the San Gabriel mountains.
Now that I had my location, it was time to plan out the shot. Since most, if not all, freeway overpasses in urban areas have chain link fences I knew that it would be a tricky shot to get, unless I wanted the fence in focus, which I did not.
Once I reached my target location (just before sunset), I set up my tripod and got my camera dialed in. Now that I was there I realized that this particular overpass had a fence which had especially small openings between links, making it an even more challenging shot. In all honesty I wasn't very confident that I would be able to get the shot I wanted without clearly seeing the fence in frame, but I was going to try no matter what.
I ended up having to configure my tripod so that my camera leaned towards the fence with the lens nearly touching it. I zoomed as far as my lens could go (105mm) and set my aperture to ƒ4.0 -- all in an attempt to minimize the visibility of the fence. Since I had to use such a wide aperture to remove as much foreground focus as possible, I also had to contend with grossly overexposing my photo because I was also dealing with light from the sunset and a long exposure time to get light trails from the freeway traffic. All of these factors contributed to a far more tricky capture than I had originally thought.
To prevent overexposing my image, I had to wait until about 30 minutes after the sun was fully set. There was far too much light before then to use the settings I wanted/needed to. In addition to camera settings, I also used a Graduated Neutral-Density (GND) filter to block some of the light from the sunset and boost the richness of the oranges and reds.
I am fairly pleased with the end result, although there are a few details that bug me. 1.) I don't really like anything to be out of focus in my landscape images and in this photo you can see that the power poles/lines are blurry. This is because I had to use a wide open aperture. 2.) The fence did still adversely affect the photo in spite of all my attempts to prevent it from doing so. I'll admit that I was able to remove most of presence in post. 3.) I would've preferred to capture this shot before the sun was actually set to make it more of a dramatic scene, but it just wasn't possible with the gear I had on me and with the location I was dealing with. Next time I try to do something like this I'll bring an ND filter instead of a GND filter.
Overall, it was a fun experience capturing this photo. I learned a few things and got to explore a bit while I was scouting the location. After all is said and done, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. 😀
Camera: EOS 6D
Lens: EF24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM
Focal Length: 105mm
Shutter Speed: 4 sec
Lens Filters: GND, UV/Haze