Sunday, June 17, 2012

Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets

I am sure all of us have looked at a sunrise or sunset and picked up your camera and when click it and you see the final image it is nothing like what you saw especially if you shot it auto. For this you need to go to full manual. Before I give you the shot cut to shooting sunsets you need to know some thing about the camera. Your camera at the moment cannot see what your eye can see. It can either see the foreground or the background if you shoot directly into the light. It does not have the dynamic range. So make the most of what you get. You want to shoot the beautiful colours of the sky then just expose for that. This is where metering comes in. When your camera is in auto it is for the most part evaluating the whole scene and takes an average of the light coming in and then determines the shutter speed and aperture. Because the sun is so bright it throws the average off and what you get is an over exposed image. That one bright spot has moved the average up.

How to get around this. There is simple technique, you put the camera on full manual, put the camera on matrix metering. What ever reading you get for your exposure for the shutter under expose by two or three stops. So if you get a shutter reading for 1/50 for correct exposure just double or triple the shutter speed and you will have the exposure you want. Another way to go is to bracket the shots and create an HDR. This way you will get the beautiful light on the foreground and the great colours of the sky.

A few things you should keep in mind when shooting sunrises and sunsets is to be prepared. Try and scout the location in advance especially for sunrises. It's dark and you don't want to get hurt getting to the place to shoot. Having the composition in mind will help. Know what time the sunrise/sunset is going to happen. You don't want to be late. Carry a tripod and keep gear to a minimum. 

You don't need fancy equipment to pull this off but it would be nice to have. Some photographers use a tilt shift lens when they photograph sunrises so they can move the plain of DOF. There are some who use coloured filters to accentuate the colours. You can also use graduated ND filter. A graduated ND filter will give you a few stops of light difference between the sky and the foreground. This means less work in post processing (especially if you are doing HDR via bracketing). 

Most importantly once got your shot do take a moment to savour the beautiful scenery. Often times we photographers forget to enjoy the moment when trying to nail the perfect shot.

A Beautiful Sunset

If you found all of the above stuff confusing check out what James Beltz from has to say. He really makes it simple in the following video

Here are some links you might find useful

12 Tips for Photographing Stunning Sunsets