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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A beginner's "How to Photograph Sunsets" tutorial

In the past couple of years I've figured out a thing or two about taking pictures of and at sunset. It takes clouds and/or reflections combined with patience before, during, and especially after the sun has set. There are three basic tips I'd like to share with you that will help you to capture some great pictures:

Sunsets in Sonoma, Carmel, NYC, and Davenport, CA.
  1. Scout your location and be there early before the sun will set. I like to allow myself an hour to get settled in. Once I took my favorite picture 51 minutes before the sun set. You can find out exactly what time sunset (or sunrise) is by simply Googling your location (city) and the word sunset. It can change day to by so be sure to check for the exact date you're interested in.
  2. Take pictures before and during the sun setting. It takes a shockingly short amount of time for the sun to sink below the horizon line. You have just a few minutes and it's gone.
  3. Immediately after the sun goes down the sky dulls. But if there's a combination of clear sky and clouds you have to wait. You'll think it's over but there's an intermission before the final grand finale may occur as evidenced in the sequence of sunset images below. Twenty two minutes later and the colors of the clouds were stunning.

Sunset, Baker Ridge, Grape Vine
Sunset in the vineyard on Baker Ridge, Healdsburg, CA

Even when the sky doesn't change colors you can still capture a nice image. This is one of my all time favorite pictures I've taken at sunset and you can see there were no colors.

But if color is what you want the following series of images were taken at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge using my Sony NEX-5R Micro Four Thirds digital camera set to Superior Auto (except for the one panoramic) and shot with an 18-55 mm lens. Some were shot using the "Pop" Picture Effect Mode which saturates the colors a bit more. Sometimes (in bright light) this can make colors too vivid. But in indirect light it helps to show the colors as they really were. The more I use it the more I love this camera!

Follow the timeline below:

7:12 PM Sunset

7:18 PM Horizontal the sun has set.

7:18 PM Vertical

Look at what a difference going vertical made! I was able to capture a bit of blue sky above the clouds. I think both pictures are quite pretty but the vertical is definitely the more dramatic of the two. Plus zooming in always intensifies the colors.

7:22 PM

This is that in between period where you can be fooled into thinking the event is over. But if you wait just a bit longer something else starts to happen . . .

7:29 PM

The colors of the painted sky begin to form. This was pretty enough but turned out to be just a hint of what was to come.

6:33 Sweeping Panorama CLICK to Enlarge

This was my favorite image from this series, but you have to click on it to view it enlarged. That's the only way to really see how stunningly dramatic and gorgeous the colors in the clouds were. The Sony NEX-5R has a sweeping panoramic function that allowed me to move the camera from left to right to capture this image. I love this function!

7:34 PM Standard

And if your camera doesn't have sweeping panorama, this is what you can end up with. Looking at this picture will always remind me of that moment and day we spent up in Colusa County. I'm so glad to have captured it to share with you.

Disclosure: While I'm not receiving payment for participating in the Sony Unedited408, I am receiving compensation in the form of the camera and lens to use for the project and to keep after. This post was not required as part of the challenge but I chose to use the camera for this exercise and because the challenge is ongoing, I wanted to give full disclosure as to how I acquired the equipment. This does not mean I am obligated to give a positive review of the camera or lens. My opinions are my own and accurate regarding my experience with the NEX-5R.  #Sony408 #SonyStore

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