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.

Setting up for sunset through a fence.

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.

You can see what I was dealing with. It was already getting dark at this point, but this image is still a little overexposed and you can see the fence in the frame. I had the aperture set to ƒ22 in this shot just to see what it looked like, but the result left way too much fence for me to be happy with.

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
Aperture: ƒ/5.0
ISO: 50
Lens Filters: GND, UV/Haze

Comment