Scene Seminar: Sunrises and Sunsets: Part 1

October 03, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

In landscape photography, it is vital to remember that you cannot control everything; Mother Nature calls the shots.  As a photographer, you pick the location and composition and then you have to wait for the right moment surrounded by the right conditions.  Of the things that you can control, below are some of the critical knowledge and items needed to help create stunning sunrise or sunset images in three parts: Finding the Location, Camera Settings, and Preparation Tips.

Part 1: Finding the Location

  • Know where you are: The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Which direction is East?  (If you ask my husband, I’m not the best at this one.) Figure out your cardinal directions early and keep your eye out for potential locations to shoot.  Are there any good overlooks that face East or West?  Can you easily get to them or from them in the dark?  How long will it take to get there from your base of operations?  Yes, you need to figure that out all in advance.  There are plenty of sun prediction software and apps out there to help you figure this out.  The nice part of using technology to assist you is that they account for the time of year and the sunrise and sunset time for your location because official sunrise/sunset time are based on the true horizon.  If you are at 15,000 feet above sea level, that official time is going to be off.  Some of the most widely used ones include Google Earth and the Photographer’s Ephemeris
  • Get a Meteorology Degree: Try to keep your eye on the forecast.  Most images work best when there is some fog or clouds in the sky that will light up in those yellow, red, purple, pink, and orange blazes.  Passing storms make some of the most dramatic images.  This is not always easy to predict but can help you determine how many days in a row you want to be up to shoot sunset.  If I am tired midweek and the forecast calls for clear skies the next day, more than likely, I’m going to choose that morning to sleep in and recharge my batteries.  
  • Be an early bird and a late night owl:  In most situations, you will want to be finalizing your composition and setting up about one hour before sunset or sunrise.   It is better to be sipping your coffee next to your tripod while you wait for the sun than rushing like a maniac by foot or car hoping that you do not miss the magical moment.  Be sure to wait for the magic hour as well, this amazing light will usually appear during the 30 minute period right before and after the sun rises or sets.


The next couple of blogs posts will slap you with some knowledge on camera settings as well as preparation tips for capturing  the morning glows and twilight colors.


Do you have any tips that you always use for shooting sunrise and sunsets?  Share them by leaving a comment below. If you enjoy this post, please subscribe to my blog!


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