Scene Seminar: Sunrises and Sunsets: Part 2

October 08, 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.  Below is some critical knowledge about the proper camera settings that you can control to help create stunning sunrise or sunset images.  In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of this Sunrise and Sunset Scene Seminar Blog Series on Finding the Location

Part 2: Camera Settings

  • Use a tripod. Use a tripod. Use a tripod. Use a tripod. Use a tripod. Use a tripod.
  • Capture the shadows and highlights: Since these scenes have a wide dynamic range (lots of bright whites and dark shadows), you need to try to capture all of that information in your camera’s sensor.  Try bracketing the image and later compiling the images to expose properly the entire image.  Another alternative is to use a graduated neutral density filter to balance the exposure of the sky with any areas of the scene that are in shadows.
  • Put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A): For most landscape shots with the sun, you want to shoot in Aperture Priority mode and use a moderate Aperture (f/8 – f/13).  If you have objects in the foreground or middle ground, you may need to go to f/16 to keep everything in focus. Note: If you are not comfortable in Aperture Priority, try using your camera in Landscape Mode.
  • Keep your ISO low: Try to keep your ISO setting as low as possible (100 or 200).  Now that you have the Aperture and ISO settings chosen, allow your camera to choose the shutter speed.
  • Be sure to check your settings every so often:  Take a photo every few minutes and make setting adjustments as needed.  Even though you may not notice the light changing while you are in the field, you will see the in post production when you get those frames into your editing software.
    • Review your histogram to make sure there is no clipping. 
    • Zoom in on the LCD screen and ensure everything is in focus.
  • Watch for flare: Use a lens hood or a hat or anything you can find (Be MacGyver) to shade your lens from stray light that will create flare in your image if you are shooting with side lighting.  If you are shooting directly into the sun, this will be hard to prevent.  At the very least, it is best to be aware of flare and use it to your advantage if it is going to be in the frame.


Our last blog post in this series will go over some lessons learned and preparatory advice to help make capturing that crepuscular light easier so stay tuned.


Do you have any tips or any gear 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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