What makes a stunning sunset?
I didn’t realise until one day someone gave me a magnet that said, “May you have enough clouds in your life to make a beautiful sunset.”
Yes clouds of the right sort can make or break a sunset. You are generally looking for light wispy clouds that cover a reasonable area.
Does this mean you can’t shoot a sunset, without clouds? No, definetly not, you can still have some great sunsets without clouds but the other elements in the photo play a larger role.
There are a few important things you need to remember when shooting sunrises or sunsets.
Firstly make sure you have your camera, tripod, shutter release, spare batteries and spare cards. (If you don’t have a shutter release you can use the timer function on your camera)
Get The Photographers Ephemeris App, I know they have one for iphone probably for android too. It tells you when sunset, sunrise, moon rise and moon set are as well as exactly where they will rise and set for any location you are in.
This helps when looking at the best place to set up, but also means you can go earlier in the day and scout out the location that you think will work best.
Always get to the location al least 30 mins before sunset, so you can set up and get your settings spot on. It is best to use aperture priority, then you can set your aperture and then you only need to adjust the shutter speed as the light gets less and less.
A note here, what if you see an amazing sunset and only have your point and shoot camera or phone? For point and shoot, put it on sunset mode, take a few shots and sit back and enjoy the show. For phones, take a few snapshots, but use it as a moment you can just sit and drink in.
Also look at the sky behind you, often before sunset the opposite part of the sky will go a dusty pink.
When checking out the location, see if there will be a chance of getting reflections. This can be off water, off mirrors, wet concrete or windows.
If there is not likely to be reflections look for shapes that will look good as silhouettes.
Look for leading lines, get down low, go up high, try for unusual angles.
Composition is just as important as for any image, don’t rely on the color to carry the whole image.
If there are reflections, put the horizon in the centre, if there aren’t use either the rule of thirds or the golden ratio.
Get set up where you think is best, then look behind you to see what the sky is doing there, turn your camera and take some shots always watching over your shoulder for the actual sunset.
Once the sky begins to brighten, take some test shots, sometimes you may need to bracket your exposures and underexpose your images rather than over expose them.
The light is getting low and you still need a fairly large depth of field f9 up, so this is where the tripod comes in as you will need long shutter speeds. I always try to keep my ISO to 100.
What happens if you get there and the cloud is really heavy and it doesn’t look like any light is going to get through?
As the sun starts to move behind the clouds it creates some great sun ray shots, so zoom in and capture these. Some of my best sunsets have been where people have said, what a waste of time. I zoom in so even the tiny bit of sunset fills my whole screen. This is a great trick if you live in an area where they are not as spectacular as where I live.
Once the sun has set, most people pack up and go home, DON’T!
It is in the 30 minutes after sunset that the sky will go red if it is going to. I have waited after the sun set and nothing, 10 mins, nothing, 20 min nothing 25 mins and the sky explodes in colour.
This time of night down at the beach is always a beautiful time of solitude, so use the time to just refresh your mind and replenish your spirit.
Remember even at this time to look all around you so you don’t miss what is happening.
Sunrises are the same so have a go at either and let me know how it goes.
Registrations are open for the April Dash. Click here:. The Photography Dash
This Dash is Landscapes, sunset and sunrises. Get I quick so you dont miss out.