Monday, July 6, 2015

Sunrise and Sunset Photography Tips

This shot from Morrow Bay at sunset was taken after about 90 minutes of observing the sunset. Hand-held. ISO 160, f4.5, 1/100 sec.  
Sunrise and Sunset photos, have always been fun for me. They give me a break from my regular work and I get some beautiful shots. I recently completed a road trip through central California and with a little planning got some breathtaking sunset shots. With that in mind, here are some tips for getting the most from your shots at sunrise or sunset. 

Plan Your Shot

Find spots that you think will work well. Face west at sunset or east at sunrise. Put features like buildings, boats and power lines in the shot. To me a horizon with beautiful clouds turning colors is nice. Better is some silhouette or building with lights. See my previous blog about night photography and architecture. You can use an app like Sun Seeker to see where the sun will be at specific times of the day.

On my trip, I planned to be near the California Aqueduct near sunset. I arrived a little early. Shot some other photos and decided to include the electrical towers in the shot for interest. I hung out from about 30 minutes before sunset until almost an hour after. 
I used a Tripod for this sunset in Mono Lake. Hung out in this spot for 4 hours. The sunset was great for about three minutes.  ISO 100, f22, 3 second exposure. Canon 5D Mk II

Bring A Tripod

This is especially useful if you are adding architectural elements with electrical lighting into shot. You also don’t have to adjust your ISO and lose quality of the image when you can’t handhold at the lower shutter speeds.  If you have to hand-hold and you are shooting more distant items you can help yourself by using a more open f-stop like f4.0. Depending on your camera, you can boost your ISO as needed. 

This sunset shot at the California Aqueduct incorporates the power lines and towers as well as the clouds for graphic elements.  Handheld. ISO 100, f6.3 1/125 seconds

Hang Around

The light changes dramatically during a good sunset. Often going from golden, to orange to purple. If you are lucky, you will get all three. So hang around from about 30 minutes before the sunset until 60 minutes after. Even longer if you are getting good stuff and can use a tripod. The Morrow Bay and Mono Lake shots went through this full spectrum. 

Embrace Clouds

Look for cloud patterns. You can add a lot of drama to a shot by including clouds in your shot. The shot of Morrow Rock was very dramatic because of a break along the horizon that resulted din the sun shining under the clouds. Of course a full clouded sky doesn’t do you any good. But in my experience, clouds often break up as the sunset approaches and the wind dies. The shot at Mono Lake was a great example. 

I was very fortunate that I got some whips clouds to add interest in this sunrise shot.  I was on foot and did not have  a tripod. I wedged the camera against a railing. ISO 400 f4.0 .3 second exposure. Canon 5d Mk II

Water Doubles Your Pleasure 

Sunsets with water in them really work well. The water reflects the sky and can add extra elements of shoreline or riverbank. Longer exposure can make the waves go away as well.

You can check out lots more of my photos on my Flickr gallery of sunsets