Sunset/Sunrise photography is a favorite subject for almost all photographers and all have quite some interesting frames in their kitty. It captures the dramatic lighting, shapes and rich colors of the vista. However, capturing the grandeur of sunrises or sunsets is not as easy as it appears to be. To capture the orange glow of the sun rising or setting is vital in this. For that, you need to know to be in the right location, read the weather conditions, set your camera properly and most importantly, be as creative as possible to get that extra magic in your photos. Location wise sea beaches and waterfronts are my favorites as I can have quite interesting foregrounds and human subjects in my images along with the sun.
The basic equipment required are fast lenses, preferably with wide aperture f/2.8. I prefer to use a wide-angle lens while shooting architectural reflection shots as it allows me to more freedom while composing the shots with maximum reflection coverage. I will not prefer any long exposure here as we are taking the shots facing the sun.
We want to capture the sun’s glow and in addition have to include the lighting of the place, the weather, clouds in the sky and other elements around the location. The first and foremost important setting is the white balance as it will help you to accurately capture the orange glow of the sunrise/sunset along with the clouds in the sky. Auto White Balance will help you in this but I would also recommend you use the manual white balance and experiment. Daylight white balance is a favorite of mine.
Next comes the exposure, ISO and shutter speed. Manual exposure mode is a must with a very low aperture. If we are shooting with the sun peeking from the clouds, the low aperture setting can give us a nice sunburst ray. Shutter speed should be fast as we are snapping against the sun. I would normally underexpose my shots one stop down and later adjust it during post-processing. You can also use a GND filter to underexpose the sky. Or you can two shots, one properly exposing the sky and another exposing the foreground and blend the two in postprocessing.
Next comes the location. If you want to compose your image a certain way, then this is very important. Beaches with boats and human elements are great for taking these photos since you can include them to create a unique frame. Be creative while composing and including your surrounding subjects. One way of doing this is by taking silhouette photos. The best way to take silhouette photos is when using the sun. We can use anything like our subjects such as people, trees, birds or boats. When using people as your subject, you can make them pose unique postures to make your photo more unique.
Reflections are invaluable for sunrise or sunset photography as they can create stunning images. Always look for compositions that can reflect the sunset colors to make the photos interesting. For interesting reflections, use the water bodies, particularly the ocean.
Weather is an essential part if you want to have a perfect sunrise or sunset photo. Taking the photos on an overcast day can ruin the quality of your photos. I prefer when the sky is a bit clear with a few clouds in the sky. The interesting cloud patterns make sunrises or sunsets very interesting as there are variations in cloud formation that makes your frame special.
Finally sunrise or sunset photography is quite common and for this reason alone, you need to be more creative than ever. Using the right camera settings and using creative ideas, you can have an interesting shot in no time. Be prepared to take countless experimental shots before you are able to get the right one. Pre-planning will help with this issue but also be very patient.