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Thread: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

  1. #1
    Panama Hat & Camera's Avatar
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    How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    The sunrise and sunset are among the most beautiful phenomena of nature.
    However, I never took a photo that showed what my eyes saw.
    I have some friends who like photography (and are far better than me) and they have good equipment (DSLR Nikon and Canon with various types of lens), but they never showed me a picture of sunrise or sunset that I said: "wow, this is an amazing photo!"
    Could anyone give me some tips?
    Regards,
    Antonio.

  2. #2
    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Don't there are far to many already.

    If you must then unless the cloud or haze is assisting you it is often better to take a photograph of a scene or subject that does not include the sun but make use of the great warm lighting available. The dynamic range of a direct sunset shot taken in clear conditions is extremely high and you may be best looking for good compositions that includes silhouettes of people, grass or trees etc.

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    What Paul said with one proviso; you are doing this for your own self gratification. Unless you get a truly amazing shot then by all means show it off. I have about two thousand sunset/sunrise shots but I will not bore you with them. Unless you have a spare couple of hours

    My experience and opinion, and I have yet to get a truly exceptional sunset or sunrise so take my advice guardedly and I am shooting at high latitude so we get a really long twilight, is
    1) get something in the foreground to provide a silhouette
    2)Wait around until at least one half hour after sunrise or be there a half hour before sunrise time. Often the best colour is when the sun is far below the horizon. Be prepared to wait it out because sometimes it's a complete bust then suddenly; it's not
    3) Use a telephoto zoom. I often shoot at 200 to 400m because the colour and cloud texture can be just above the horizon and with a smaller lens all you get is a tiny smear of colour. Even with a great sunset/sunrise, a 50mm or wider will get you a lot of sky and a tiny sunset/sunrise. When you look at the sunset/sunrise you are mentally selecting to register the colourful bits and ignoring the rest. But be prepared to be flexible in case it suddenly decides to light up the entire sky.
    4) use a tripod, the exposure time can be 1/10 of a sec or longer, impossible to hand hold and get cloud texture.
    5) change the exposure compensation to enrich the colour, I often shot at minus 7 or even more to avoid the camera giving me a pale washed out sky early on then plus 7 when the sun is completely set. But be prepared to change it to suit the conditions.
    6) Beyond your control, but you need clouds on the horizon and above you and a big patch of clear sky over the horizon so the sun is shining under the cloud deck.
    7) do not forget to look at the clouds and what not opposite to the sunset. There can be some spectacular stuff happening behind you as the sun sets and lights up hills,forests and clouds.
    Last edited by tbob; 24th January 2013 at 11:23 PM.

  4. #4
    Panama Hat & Camera's Avatar
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    What Paul said with one proviso; you are doing this for your own self gratification. Unless you get a truly amazing shot then by all means show it off. I have about two thousand sunset/sunrise shots but I will not bore you with them. Unless you have a spare couple of hours
    Trevor,
    I would like to see your sunset/sunrise photos.
    Cheers,
    Antonio.

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    First....shoot what you enjoy, done to death or not. I regularly shoot sunset and sunrise. I absolutely agree with the suggestion to look behind you while watching the color unfold. You might be pleasently surprised. I do not limit myself to a certain lens, I make that choice as I decide just what I want out of the image or rather just what I want in the image.

    I am generally set up at least 1/2 hour before sunrise if not an hour and stay well past sunset. I have found that while much can be done in PP, I choose to and enjoy the use of Gradient ND filters to better control the bright sky and bring up the the foreground exposure. I like to get it right in camera which I feel gives me more room if needed in PP and possible quality in the forground shadows. Also give a polorizing filter a go along with trying different W/B settings....cloudy, shade will enhance the warmth of the image, again W/B can be done in PP but why not have a play while shooting?

    For me the sky is only a part of what is needed for a good image, the forground intrest, secondary subject intrest {sunrise over city} and composition is what will determine whether or not you come away with just another sunset/sunrise or something that you want to hang on your wall.

    I have posted a few many times here as this question comes up from time to time, so I won't post them again to take up space. Have a look at the link in my sig. if interested. You will find some in the galleries..... Landscapes, cityscapes and panorama
    Last edited by jeeperman; 25th January 2013 at 02:13 AM.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    I seldom shoot sunrises or sunsets. In fact when I see a posting entitled "sunrise at" or "sunset at" I seldom expect much from the image and usually I am not surprised...

    However, occasionally one is really spectacular and beautiful!

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I seldom shoot sunrises or sunsets. In fact when I see a posting entitled "sunrise at" or "sunset at" I seldom expect much from the image and usually I am not surprised...

    However, occasionally one is really spectacular and beautiful!
    I am the same - it was just lucky I looked at the thread Snake River Sunrise but I am glad I did.

    Dusk, dawn, early morning and twilight are the words that get me to look. The lighting around sunrises and sunsets can be wonderful for photography but it is not often I include the sun in a photo.

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    I'm not a fanatic of sunsets, but when I see a beautiful one I fall in temptation...
    Paul, I am confused about W/B for sunsets and wish to ask you: I know that Cloudy or Shadows settings make the image warmer, but what should be the "correct" color temperature for a sunset? Is it worth to set it or is it preferable to lie?

    Thanks

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Giacomo, "correct" I think is a relative term in the case of sunsets and sunrises. Depending upon the light it can differ. Also depending upon your vision/version of the image it can differ. This is why many choose to not worry about W/B at all as it will be adjusted in PP. I just like to try things as I shoot.

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Along the lines of what has already been said - the best sunrise/sunset shots are when the colour is a backdrop to something interesting.
    For me, my sunrise shots tend to be seascapes (mainly because it rises over the ocean here).
    My primary goal is interesting water movement on the rocks - best shot just before sunrise in the low light. The actual sunrise is secondary, but usually a bonus - a backdrop of colour.
    Once the sun breaks the horizon, it is usually time to go home (unless there are great clouds happening )

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Thank you Paul, I took your point

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Quote Originally Posted by GiacomoD View Post
    I'm not a fanatic of sunsets, but when I see a beautiful one I fall in temptation...
    Paul, I am confused about W/B for sunsets and wish to ask you: I know that Cloudy or Shadows settings make the image warmer, but what should be the "correct" color temperature for a sunset? Is it worth to set it or is it preferable to lie?

    Thanks
    Hi Giacomo

    I am not sure which Paul you were asking so if Paul (jepperman) gives you an answer as well you can pick which ever one you like.

    As far as I am concerned you already know the answer - lie. I would leave the camera on auto WB and it will decide how much it wants to lie in order to move the colour temperature towards that of a normal daylight scene. Latter when you do your adjustments with whatever editor you use just do a final adjustment either with WB, or any other method you have available to give you the colour balance you like or recall.

    Our brains make a partial colour WB adjust when viewing a sunset. For example our brain will accept that a white fence is a warm cream colour at sunset but to register it as cream our brain has likely corrected the fence from being the orange colour the lighting made it. The more expectation we have about a colour of an object such as a human face or your car the harder the brain works to perform an acceptable mental WB adjust on that object. Good artists and photographers get pretty good at not letting their brains fool them completely as to the true colours the lighting has produced.

    If our perception is lying to us I think it only fair we lie back.

    P.S. I see while I have been mucking around with an answer the proper Paul has already answered with a similar but more succinct response.

  13. #13
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Thank you L.Paul, not succint as Paul but still clear and useful answer.

    More in general, W/B is one of the trickiest aspects of the various camera settings... at least for me! I was thinking to start a new thread on this specific issue
    Last edited by GiacomoD; 25th January 2013 at 08:49 AM.

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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Manual WB is the key to sunrise/sunset images.
    Antonio I am sure the P510 has a preset for sunset - try it.
    Auto WB reduces the red/yellow tone in a stunning sunset.

    Giacomo. WB is actually very simple to understand. If you want it warmer turn up the heat and if you want it cooler turn down the heat. Kelvin temp. is the heat - the warmer-more red/yellow-you need it to be turn up Kelvin temp. The cooler - more blue - you want it to be turn down the heat.
    Last edited by AB26; 25th January 2013 at 09:32 AM.

  15. #15
    Didace's Avatar
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I seldom shoot sunrises or sunsets. In fact when I see a posting entitled "sunrise at" or "sunset at" I seldom expect much from the image and usually I am not surprised...

    However, occasionally one is really spectacular and beautiful!
    The same could be said of any type of image. It goes back to what interests you as a subject of a photo. There are several types of subjects that bore me. I look at the threads anyway because there may be something about how the image was created that I can learn from. Every so often one of the photos will "wow" me.

  16. #16
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    do not forget to look at the clouds and what not opposite to the sunset. There can be some spectacular stuff happening behind you as the sun sets and lights up hills,forests and clouds.
    Too true. A few years ago, we were in Yosemite, up at Glacier Point, and watching sunset on Half Dome. If you've been there, you'll know we weren't alone

    I did look around and saw a lovely scene. It was taken with an old p&s, the light was fading, and I've lost the file so could only scan a print, but I think I was literally the only one there who saw it - everyone else was fixated on Half Dome.

    Just to complete the story, few years later there was an article in the paper about Ansel Adams illustrated by one of his pictures. I thought I recognise that scene, got my album out and yes - I knew exactly where he had been standing. You can probably guess whose image was superior . It was a good lesson for me in looking around! Cheers, Dave

    How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

  17. #17
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    Some very interesting and insightful comments have been posted; No.9 by Paul and No.12 by L.Paul caught my attention (this isn't meant to distract from other people's comments).

    Paul (No.9) suggested that our vision/version comes into play - I would agree with this - colour can be very subjective, and can vary from person to person.

    L.Paul (No.12) said this in a different way; ". . our brains make a partial WB adjustment . . "

    If I may comment (and quote my Grade 7/8 art teacher), "look carefully at shadows in the snow - they aren't grey, they are blue". It wasn't until I took up photography that I understood the impact and importance of his comment - the colour temperature of light varies - even in one scene. That's why I don't strive too hard for correct WB, and treat images with a bit of creativity (what little I have).

    One of my own favourite "sunset" images was taken with the camera aimed perpendicular to the sun's rays, and roughly parallel to the shoreline on the Oregon coast. The sun is not in the image. (If this image doesn't link, I'll upload it to the site):

    http://www.naturescapes.net/portfoli...php?pos=-38881

    Furthermore, I'm not even sure that the colours accurately depict what was actually there - but it's what I saw (my vision as L.Paul would say).

    This image also supports what other posters have said - get something interesting other than the sun in the image.

    Perhaps one reason that the OP isn't (how shall I say it) terribly excited about sunset images is that there are too many of them!!

    Glenn

  18. #18
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    Re: How to take photos of sunrise and sunset?

    I always shoot in RAW and almost always leave my WB on auto.

    For portrait and product photography I will usually include a white balance target to get me within the general area of white balance. However, with sunsets/sunrises (unless people are involved) I just play with the RAW image to my heart's delight...

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