Spring Newsletter- Best effects for shooting sunsets.

by Bob Evans on April 24, 2011

Spring has sprung!  At least the calendar says so.  If your in an area of the country like mine it still seems a lot like winter, with rain and even snow.  But it’s always a great time to photograph!

This quarter, in preparation for getting out of doors,  I thought  I would share a ‘How to’ segment on sunsets, primarily at the ocean.  I know lots of folks  have trouble getting the best exposures and detail,  especially if the sun is directly in the shot.


Sunset at Schoolhouse Beach


The example here shows lots of detail in the sand and surf with the sun just about to touch the horizon.  The sun is quite round and distinct, setting over the boulder.  This is one of my older images that was shot with the medium format Pentax 645nii.  Fuji Velvia not having a very good dynamic range also gave me challenges with the contrast. However using the ND grad filter of 2 stops I was able to get the highlights under control. And even though it’s hard to see on a monitor, the shadow details are also quite good.

In the next image, which was taken with the Nikon D3, it shows more of a distinct sun with a definite round shape.  It was shot with similar settings and equipment.  Tripod of course, 17-35mm lens, 2 stop ND grad set at the horizon.  The difference here, and the key to this concept is that there was a slight haze on the horizon which tends to diffuse the strong light of the sun and make it truly round in appearance.

Also very important is to wait until just about 5 minutes before setting to get the best shape from the sun.  Much earlier and it gives off too much light and distorts due to lens refraction.


Jug handle Sunset










Maha Ulepu Sunrise

In this last example I show another newer technique that can be used to capture a nice round shape of the sun.  This is taken at sunrise at Maha Ulepu Beach Kauai.  I shot it about 4 minutes after the sun rose.  The normal exposures were quite refracted due to the clear skies at the horizon line. Using 5 images and creating an HDR , the sun resulted in a much better shape.  Although not as round as in the other image it is still acceptable ,  I also used the  ND grads in all five exposures, which I do in many HDR captures.

So the key points to remember are, shoot about 5 minutes before sunset, or after sunrise.  Look for some light haze or cloudiness just at the horizon, and use the ND grad to control the contrast.

So now it spring and I hope you all get out the and do some fine shooting.  If you have any comments about our newsletters I am always interested.

On a side note we still have open seats left in some of our upcoming workshops.

See you next time and remember ‘Keep shooting’



















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