GARDEN & ARCHITECTURE

Over the years of experience I’ve had in Garden and Architecture photography, I’ve had an opportunity to take images of many, many projects for various London based Landscape Contractors, Garden Designers and Architects. These include: The Garden Builders, GA Water Feature, Kate Gould Gardens, Lynne Marcus Garden Design, Andy Sturgeon Garden Design, Declan Buckley Associates, Lab Architects, Cliffton Interiors and others. Gallery Photography Galleries include examples of my best garden and garden lighting images. Some of the images include pictures of Show Garden on various RHS Chelsea Flowers Shows.

Every project is unique in it’s own right and what works for one picture may not work for another so it’s just as important to take the time to familiarise yourself with the space before you start taking any pictures. Seeing the photograph as more than just the subject ensures that you always get the best image of the subject. An important aspect is to plan your visit in a garden at a right time depending on garden orientation and season of the year. Sometimes you need to allow for multiple visits to makes sure you have the base images.

Garden Lights are one of my favourite subjects of garden photography, it is always a bit challenging but also immensely satisfying when you capture a great shot. In modern gardens, garden lighting plays a very important role and is quite often part of every scheme. A good lighting scheme will always transform every garden and it’s always interesting to see the final effect and mood it can create. The most challenging part of garden lighting photography is the short window of good light in a day that allows you to take best images. Twilight is actually is the best time, and you literally have 20-30 minutes of good light otherwise it’s either too bright or too dark.

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Minimalist House Designed for a Photographer

Welsh architectural practice Hyde + Hyde Architects transformed an unused quarry into a residential area where they built a unique home for a photographer on the edge of Brecon National Park in Pontypridd, Wales. To avoid touching the walls of the quarry, Hyde + Hyde came up with the innovative solution of elevating the building off the ground, creating a distinctive house that intrudes on the surrounding landscape as little as possible.

The rectangular abode features sleek, minimalist design on both the exterior and interior, providing an abstract backdrop that allows the owner to shoot or display his photographic works as needed. Large windows open up the home to natural light and the quiet beauty of the natural surroundings around the house. According to the architects, the elegant building is designed to “collect light and focus on distant views like a camera Obscura,” providing even more inspiration for the resident photographer.

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My Life as an Expat Photographer: Joys and Challenges

After spending a substantial part of my 20s making repeated self-financed trips to Asia from my native Australia, I made the decision to relocate for a year or two. I figured I would save money that way, while minimizing the usual travel frustrations. I chose Taiwan — for no other reason than I had a friend who lived here.

Well, it’s seven years later and I’m still here. I’m married to a Taiwanese citizen and living life as an expatriate cultural and travel photographer.

I’ll confess that living as an expat, particularly in a culture that is markedly different from my own, can be frustrating. But it also offers unique rewards that more than offset the disadvantages.

Language, Banking and Other Challenges

The biggest challenge, and one I face on a daily basis, is one of language. Simply put, my Chinese stinks. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language and, as evidenced by my failed attempts at playing guitar in high school, I am tone deaf.

I’m fine for basic things like shopping, ordering food, travel and so forth, but for anything more than that, I’m lost. Trying to get an old rice farmer to understand what a model release is when you can’t speak the language is not exactly easy.

And that’s just speaking and listening. Reading is even harder and writing tougher still.

There are advantages in my ignorance, though. A lot of people, particularly older ones, don’t really expect foreigners to be literate and often go out of their way to help, showing infinite friendliness and patience as they do.

When I do need to be able to communicate over an extended shoot, I can always hire a university student to serve as interpreter. It’s easy money for them.

I’d love to learn the language, of course. Unfortunately, most people tell me that I’ll need to make a four to five hour daily commitment for a couple of years just to achieve basic literacy. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and also run a business.

Speaking of business, banking as an expat is fraught with difficulties, too. There are no provisions for Internet banking in English, it’s extremely difficult to get credit or debit cards if you’re not a citizen, and even conducting simple transactions can take a very long time.

Patience isn’t just a virtue. It’s a necessity.

Fortunately, there are ATMs in every 7-Eleven and McDonald’s, so I use these for as much of my banking as possible.

Appreciating Access

For all the challenges (and there are many others) of being an expat, there are myriad advantages, too. For example, Taiwan is very open to photographers and appreciative of the work of international photographers.

With an incredibly free press, a dozen 24/7 domestic cable news stations and as many daily newspapers in a country of 23 million, people and institutions here are comfortable with media access. Some of the images the public sees could never be printed in the United States — much less on page one above the fold.

As an expat, I’ve benefited from the desire of the Taiwanese to be reported on internationally. They are justifiably proud of how quickly their island has progressed from a one-party state under martial law to an open democracy. And so, whenever I’m at a news event, they always bring the foreigner to the front.

I’ve been able to photograph the current president of Taiwan, plus two former presidents (one of whom is now serving a life sentence for corruption), as well as city and county mayors, all without needing any kind of security check.

On one occasion, in fact, one of the security officials saw me, called me over and cleared a path through the crowd so that I could get closer. On another occasion, a bodyguard told me the route the president would walk and showed me the best place to stand before the TV crews claimed it.

I’ve received access to trade shows and conventions, backstage areas, sporting events and all kinds of other venues — simply by handing over my business card.

If only the banks were that easy to work with.

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HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH LANDSCAPES AT NIGHT BY MOONLIGHT

Landscape photography by moonlight can provide a different way of producing wonderful and mesmerizing photographs in both color and black and white. The mood conveyed in moonlight photography can be quite different than in other lighting circumstances.

Photographing by moonlight has its own set of challenges. But with a few setting and technique adjustments to your normal shooting routine, it can produce outstanding results.

PLANNING

TIMING

The best time to shoot is the night of the full moon, but a couple of days either side of that date will also work.

An app that I found very useful in the planning moonlit shoots is PhotoPills. This app offers 3D augmented reality views including times and from what direction the moon will rise and set. You can also easily program it for a particular day and time for help in planning dates, times, and locations to set up for the shoot. It also shows paths of the sun and the Milky Way in the same manner.

During a full moon, fewer stars are visible than during a new moon. But if you find a location with very little light pollution, then you’ll be able to capture more stars (and maybe even a planet or two).

If you’re hoping to get great shots of a starry sky or the Milky Way rather than a moonlit landscape, then schedule your shoot around the new moon rather than the full moon. As always, aim for a location with very little light pollution, and use the PhotoPills app to help you find the best positioning to capture the Milky Way

LOCATION

Areas that have the least light pollution possible have the darkest skies, and that is most preferable when deciding on a location to shoot. A useful website to help find “dark” locations is Dark Sky.

SCOUTING

If this is less than a well-travelled area or path I like to visit the location and first walk the layout in daylight. Some of the places I have been are quite rugged and desolate and I felt a lot more comfortable in knowing the trail beforehand. It is just a little unnerving to be out in the desert or hills alone and lost at night. If possible take a partner along with you and carry a physical map, as some remote locations still do not have cell service so your phone’s map may not work. Also, add a compass app on your phone, or better yet, carry a real compass.

In addition to a good quality camera and lenses here some additional items to consider using.

  • A sturdy tripod – this is an absolute necessity.
  • Cable release or remote shutter release – a must to reduce camera shake.
  • If you do not have a cable release or remote shutter release you can use the self-timer on the camera.
  • Extra batteries for your camera – as you may wish to use the Live View mode during your shoot and that really drains the battery.
  • Cheat Sheets – listing maximum exposure times for each lens used to prevent star trails and camera settings.
  • Lighting – in addition to a bright flashlight to use while walking you may find a headlamp is useful so you have both hands free to use. Consider a headlamp that offers a red light setting in order to help preserve your “night vision”.

CAMERA SETTINGS

Shooting moonlit landscapes is quite different from shooting using sunlight as your light source. The moon reflects between 3 and 12 per cent of light from the sun so you will be operating in a very low light situation. Some adjustments will need to be made within the exposure triangle (aperture, ISO and shutter speed) to achieve optimum results.

APERTURE

You will need to set the lens used to the widest aperture possible as you wish to keep the shutter speed and ISO to a minimum. Realize that this may not be the optimum setting of the lens used to obtain maximum sharpness (usually for most lenses it is f/8 to f/11) and some depth of field will be lost so you may want to adjust the ISO and shutter speed accordingly to increase sharpness and depth of field.

ISO

It is recommended to keep the ISO settings low when possible, but with a good quality camera sensor, amazing results may still be obtained with up to 3200 ISO and even higher. I prefer to keep the ISO maximum setting at 3200. Lightroom and other post-processing software greatly help with reducing noise that is inherent with higher ISO settings but it is better to keep the noise down on the original image.

SHUTTER SPEED AND HOW TO AVOID STAR TRAILS

Due to the earth’s rotation if an exposure is set beyond a certain time frame then the stars will seem to be out of focus and appear as streaks or trails of light. To avoid this you will need to keep your exposure time less than the time that star trails will appear in the photograph.

There is a way to calculate this maximum exposure time and that is the “500 Rule”. Here is the formula.

For a full-frame sensor simply divide 500 by the focal length of the lens and that will tell you the maximum shutter speed to avoid star trails.

Example:
Lens focal length – 25mm
500 divided by 25 = 20
So the maximum shutter speed for that lens would be 20 seconds.

For a cropped sensor you will need to calculate the equivalent focal length used in a full-frame camera. To do this, multiply the focal length of the lens for a cropped sensor camera by 1.5.

Example:
30mm lens for a cropped sensor equals 45mm
500 divided by 45 = 11.1
So the maximum shutter speed for that lens used on a cropped sensor camera would be 11.1 seconds.

My camera has a full-frame sensor so these are the calculations for maximum exposure times to avoid star trails with my lenses rounded down to the nearest second and I try not to push the time frame to the limit.

  • 14mm – 35 seconds
  • 18-35mm zoom – 27 to 14 seconds
  • 24-85mm zoom – 20 to 5 seconds
  • 70-200mm – 7 to 2 seconds
  • OTHER SETTINGS FOR MOONLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
    • Image Stabilization (also known as Vibration Reduction) – if your lens or camera offers this feature it is recommended to turn it off when using a tripod as this will sometimes add blur to an image.
    • Auto Focus – set to off as some cameras have a difficult time autofocusing in low light situations.
    • If you wish to check the focus, turn on the Live View and “zoom in” using the viewing screen to review the image or scene.
    • Flash – off.
    • White balance – I set to auto and adjust if necessary in post-processing.
    • RAW or JPEG – no debate, RAW. If you are serious about producing photographs and not snapshots, RAW is the only way to shoot.
    • Manual or M or B setting – you will need to set it to one of these modes as more control is needed of the camera than the other settings can provide.
    • Mirror Up or MUP – shoot in the “mirror up” mode or MUP as this reduces camera vibration.

    TECHNIQUE

    Start with some test shots and check your focus, settings, and histogram.

    When checking exposure in the histogram don’t necessarily trust it. Remember this is night, i.e. dark photography. You will find you will need to expose the shot to the “left side” of the histogram. I always bracket a few shots with different exposure, shutter speed, and ISO settings, so I have a few shots to choose from in post-processing.

    Focus stacking is a way to add control for sharpness and depth of field. Focus stacking is just what it sounds like, stacking or combing different focus depths to achieve optimum focus. There are different software programs for this; Photoshop is the probably the most popular. Software used.

    Check the sky for planes as they will make their own trails with their lights. If you are not able to wait them out, then their light trails may be able to be removed with a spot removal tool in post-processing.

    If there are clouds, extra exposure times will help smooth them out and provide an interesting look or “feel” to the photograph.

    You may also consider “light painting” some foreground objects. There are special flashlights made for this purpose but you may find that a bright LED flashlight may work as well. You may only need to “paint” the foreground objects for just a couple of seconds on 15-30 second exposure. You will need to experiment with the amount of time and “painting” used for the shot.

    Note: You may want to cover the viewfinder eyepiece on the camera when shooting as light from the moon (or any other source such as a flashlight) may come through the viewfinder and interfere with the exposure. Some cameras come with a viewfinder eyepiece cap or cover that slips over the eyepiece viewfinder but as I lost mine the first time out I just cup my hand over the viewfinder eyepiece (without touching the camera body).


  • POST-PROCESSING

    This topic deserves a whole other article but just one important note here. You may be surprised to see a row of spots or streaks of light that you did not see during the shoot. These are caused by the blinking lights of a plane and the streaks are caused by satellites or “falling stars” and are easily removed using the spot removal tool. I start in Lightroom in my post-processing routine and use the “Visualize Spots” option in the Spot Removal tool to help look for these items.

    CONCLUSION

    You may find that a new avenue in your photography journey with “moonlighting”. And spending time in nature in moonlit landscapes, enjoying the quiet and beauty while creating wonderful photographs is an added bonus.

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ZOO PHOTOGRAPHY

I often take animal portraits at my local zoo. For photographers, zoos provide a consistent way to get close to a variety of animals without the time and expense of travel to exotic locations. Here are some tips I have learned from several years practicing zoo photography.

primate at zoo

CAMERA GEAR FOR ZOO PHOTOGRAPHY

The gear I consistently bring with me on every visit to the zoo with my DSLR camera is my 300mm zoom lens and my 50mm prime lens. During the colder, dramatically less crowded months (I live in Chicago) I occasionally bring my tripod; however, I found a beanbag that attaches to my camera to be easier to use in cramped conditions. I can squish the beanbag against railings or fencing for a firm, steady support. A lens cloth is also indispensable. A spare battery is good insurance. My camera model holds two SD cards, which I find are plenty for my time there. As you discover your favorite animals and style for shooting you will learn what specific items work best for you.

If you’re planning to photograph smaller critters such as small reptiles or if the exhibit has a glass viewing area you may also want to bring some sort of shield for your lens. There are rubber shields that fit like a filter on the end of your lens which will allow you to put it up against the glass to eliminate reflections.

tortoise

Don’t forget that the shield will cause you to lose a bit of light; you may need to adjust your exposure to accommodate.

FIND GOOD LIGHTING

Pay attention to your light direction and try to move to give the best exposure for your subject(s). I tend to spend much of my time at the lowland gorilla exhibit at my local zoo. This particular area allows viewing 360 degrees around the enclosure. I now understand on which side of the exhibit to position myself to allow the best exposure due to the light direction. Even if the gorillas are active on the opposite side, I have learned it is better for me to wait for them to move to my side rather than be disappointed with un-editable shadowing due to poorly lit, dark animals. I need to use a very low aperture with available light, since most indoor exhibits prohibit using flash. The low aperture will also help minimize backgrounds. I use the fastest shutter and a high ISO to freeze the action. I will also shoot in RAW. The larger file allows me to crop to a smaller portion of the picture and still be acceptable.

photographing primates

LOOK FOR EYE CONTACT

Watch the animal’s eyes and be ready to hit your shutter quickly to have eye contact with your viewer! More often than not the animals will simply scan over the visitor viewing area occasionally rather than stare at any individual person. For clear shots maintain a fast shutter with burst mode and be ready for that split second when your subject looks toward you. When you see its eyes start sweeping your way, start shooting! A long lens will give you the ability to see when an animal’s eyes appear to be staring right into your camera.

monkey and baby

BE PATIENT

Be prepared to wait quite a while before picture worthy behaviors occur. Just as in the wild you will need patience and a bit of extrapolation to catch the action or expression of a nice shot. Please be considerate, however, and do not hog a large area of prime viewing space. Keep elbows in and tripods close. Stand firm while waiting, as you may be jostled on crowded days.

Most people appreciate a little thoughtfulness. If I’m at a window viewing area with my long lens propped against the glass, there’s enough room to allow a shorter child or two to stand in front of me without disturbing my camera position. Sometimes my camera will actually attract other people to come see what I’m photographing, but I have noticed most zoo visitors only spend a few minutes at any given exhibit before moving on.

wild cat photography

PREVENT CONDENSATION

If you move into a different temperature environment take care to protect your camera and lens from condensation. Going from cold outside air to a warm building housing tropical climates will cause your lens to fog. I like to keep a lens cap in place for at least five minutes after entering to allow the camera time to warm up. I keep a lens pen and a lens cloth handy, as well. If the outside air is bitterly cold, I tuck my camera into my coat as I walk to the tropical buildings to help keep it warm and reduce condensation.

GET TO KNOW ZOO STAFF

Try to get to know zoo personnel and other regular photographers as they may be generous with inside information about best times for photographing specific animals. I have discovered a whole little sub-culture of regular zoo photographers who are friendly resources of information, anything from advice for camera settings to gossip about the zoo animals.

ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

When editing your images, don’t be afraid to crop close to reduce or eliminate fencing, zoo visitors, or other distracting factors. I often choose to convert the image to black and white to avoid distracting colors from things like painted zoo enclosure backgrounds.

black and white animal photography

If your favorite animals are napping or not on display, you might want to try getting shots of zookeepers or volunteers as they do their jobs in the zoo. If you’re a regular visitor, you may want to consider getting small inexpensive prints of your best shots and giving them to the respective zoo personnel next time you see them.

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10 Beach Photography Tips

Image by David Kracht

Here in Australia we love to hit the beach.

We’re one big island and most of our population is scattered along the coast line so the beach is a natural place for us to go both on day trips and longer holidays.

Beaches present digital camera owners with a number of wonderful opportunities as they are places of natural beauty, color and interesting light. However they also present a variety of challenges including camera damage, privacy issues and making large open spaces interesting.

While it’s not really beach going weather at present here in my part of the world I know that many readers of this site are getting close to Summer and beach photography will be high on the agenda of many (I’m so jealous).

Beach-Play

1. Look for focal points

A friend of mine once told me that they don’t bother taking their camera to the beach because all beach shots look the same. i thought that that was a pretty sad thing to say because when I go to the beach I see it as a place brimming with photographic opportunities if you have the ability to look beyond the cliche shots. For example while many people take shots looking out to sea I find it interesting to go to the water’s edge and then turn completely around and see what’s in your frame from that angle. One common problem with landscape beach photographs is that while they might capture a beautiful scene they actually have no point of interest and can as a result be rather empty and boring. When taking a shot look for a point of interest or focal point that will give those looking at your photo a place for their eye to rest. Perhaps it’s a pattern in the sand, a set of footprints, the crashing of waves over a rock, a life saver’s tower etc. Also look for the little things that tell the story of going to the beach like shoes at the waters edge, sand castles, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion etc. Sometimes these can make wonderful little feature shots to break up your vacation album.

2. Timing is important

The start and end of days can present the best opportunities for shooting at the beach. For starters there will be less people there at that time of day but also you’ll find that with the sun shining on an angle that you often get more interesting effects of shadows and colors – particularly in the evening when the light becomes quite warm and golden.

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Beach-Waves

3. Watch the Horizon

One of the most common problems in beach photography where there are wide open spaces with a long and often unbroken horizon is sloping horizons. Work hard at keeping your horizon square to the framing of your shot (more on this here). Also consider placing your horizon off centre as centered horizons can leave a photo looking chopped in half (more on this in our post on the Rule of Thirds).

4. Head to the Beach When Others Avoid it

Another timing issue is that the beach can really come to life on those days that everyone avoids it because of inclement weather. Stormy seas, threatening and dramatic clouds and wind slowing lifesaver flags and trees over call all make for atmospheric shots.

5. Exposure Bracketing

One of the challenges of shooting in the middle of summer on a beach is that it can be incredibly bright and your camera could want to under expose your shots if you’re shooting in Auto mode. If your camera has a manual mode it can be well worth playing with it at the beach and experimenting with different levels of exposure. I find that I get the best results when I look at what the camera wants to expose the shot at and then over expose it by a stop or two. Of course this depends greatly from situation to situation – brightly lit landscapes are generally very tricky – especially if you have shady areas as well as bright ones. Sometimes it’s a matter of working out which area you want to be well exposed and focussing on that area as to get everything right is often impossible.

Beach

6. Spot Metering

If your camera has spot metering you can overcome some of the above exposure problems. Spot metering is a feature that some cameras have whereby you tell the camera which part of the image you want to be well exposed and it will get that bit right. This is particularly useful in bright light when you want to get a shady area exposed well. It will optimize the shady area (and the other areas will be over exposed – but at least your main subject will be ok). This can be effective especially when photographing people as it allows you to face them away from the sun and to meter on their shadowy face and therefore avoid squinting (a common problem with photographing people at the beach).

7. Fill Flash

If you’re photographing people at the beach as a portrait and it’s bright you’ll find that they will almost always have shadows on their face (often cast by hats, glasses, noses etc). Switch on your flash and force it to fire when shooting in these situations and you’ll find the shadows eliminated and your actual subject is well exposed. This is particularly important when shooting into the sun when without a flash you could end up with your subject being at some stage of becoming a silhouette). If your camera gives you some level of control over how strong a flash to fire you might want to experiment with this also as firing a full strength can leave your subjects looking washed out and artificial. If your subjects do look overexposed and you cant decrease the flash strength try moving back a little from your subject and using your zoom to get a tighter framing as this will decrease the impact of the flash. As usual – experimenting is the key.

8. UV Filters

UV filters are useful for DSLR owners a couple of reasons in beach photography. Firstly they act as a protection for your lens (see below) but also they do filter out ultraviolet light in a certain range. This can cut back on atmospheric haze (often a blueish haze/tinge). The visual impact that they have is not great but they are the first thing I buy when I get a new lens for my DSLR.

Black-And-White-Beach

9. Polarizing Filters

One of the most useful DSLR lens accessories that you can add to a digital camera is a polarizing filter. Without getting too technical, a polarizer filters out some light that is polarized. This means that it reduces reflections and boosts contrasts. The most noticeable places that this has impact is with blue skies (potentially it can make them incredibly rich and almost dark blue) and in water/ocean in which it can give a variety of effects. The way many people explain the results of a polarizer is the difference that polarizing sunglasses can make when you put them on (in fact I know quite a few photographers who shoot through their sunglasses if they don’t have a polarizer with them. Get a polarizing filter and experiment with it and you’ll quite literally be amazed by the results.

10. Black and White

One technique that I’ve been using a lot lately in beach photography (and other genres also) is to do a little post photo production and see what impact stripping a photo of color has upon it. There’s something about a black and white shot at the beach that completely changes the mood and feel of a shot. It’s also a great way to bring to life beach shots taken on dull or overcast days which can often leave a beach scene looking a little colorless.

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30 Tips for stunning sunset photography

I shot this picture in Iceland. It was a gorgeous sunset, but one thing that helped me to make the color look dynamic is that I shot very wide to include some of the blue sky on the sides of the colorful areas.

Sunset Photography Tip #1. Underexpose.  This is the most important tip for taking pictures of sunsets.  Slightly underexposing the sunset will make the colors look more rich and defined.  The entire scene will become more dramatic.  You can underexpose by using manual mode and selecting a fast shutter speed, or you can shoot in aperture priority and use exposure compensation.

Sunset Photography Tip #2. Find the foreground first.  The best recipe for a good sunset is some object of interest in the foreground.  It could be a pond, a pier, or whatever else.  Just find something interesting to put in the foreground to add depth to the scene.

Sunset Photography Tip #3.  Don’t put the horizon line in the middle of the photo.  A good general rule is to put the horizon on the bottom third of the photo if the sunset is pretty, and on the top third of the photo if the sunset is lackluster.

Sunset Photography Tip #4.  TURN AROUND!  Sometimes the scene behind you can be gorgeous and all the photographers miss it because they are too busy looking at the sun.  The sunset produces beautiful warm light and a beautiful scene might be bathing in that warm light behind you.  Don’t forget to look over your shoulder.

I photographed these huge chunks of ice along the black sand beaches at Jokulsarlon. The sunset really lit up the ice to make for a dynamic scene.

Sunset Photography Tip #5.  Shoot in aperture priority with exposure compensation while the sun is still in the sky, and then switch to manual once the sun dips below the horizon.  This will allow you to have the convenience of shooting in aperture priority as the light levels change quickly before sunset, and then you can switch to manual mode to get a more precise exposure after the sun goes down.  In low light settings, the exposure meter on your camera will often be innaccurate, so manual mode after sunset is the best option.

Sunset Photography Tip #6.  Stay longer.  The sky will usually light up with color again about 25 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon.  Most photographers miss this second sunset, and it’s more beautiful than the first most of the time!

Sunset Photography Tip #7.  Create silhouettes in the foreground.  Just speed up your shutter speed and you’ll have a silhouette.  The key to taking a good silhouette shot is to find a subject with fine details that will let the sun shine through it and that has a recognizable shape.  If you have something too huge as the silhouette, it takes away from the picture since it is just a large area of blackness.

white balance for sunset photography

Sunset Photography Tip #8.  Ditch auto white balance for once.  Change the white balance to “shade” and you’ll get beautiful golden tones out of an otherwise lackluster sunset.

Sunset Photography Tip #9. Before the sun dips below the horizon, consider shooting in HDR to capture most of the dynamic range.

Sunset Photography Tip #10.  Wait for the right clouds.  The ideal conditions are a partly cloudy day with spotty clouds.  When the clouds are just a flat gray sheet of cloud (one of you will surely know what type of cloud this is and inform me in a comment below), it will not light up as much.  Wait for patchy whispy clouds.

Sunset Photography Tip #11. Consider shooting panoramas or vertoramas to contrast the sunset colors with the other colors of the sky.

Sunset Photography Tip #12. Before the sun actually sets, stop down your lens’s aperture to a high value such as f/22.  This will make the rays of the sun more clear.  It will give the sun a starburst effect.  Very cool.

Sunset Photography Tip #13. Ditch the filters.  Yes, that includes. the polarizer.  Polarizers will NOT help saturate the colors in a sunset.  This is a topic I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Go check out that post for more info.  Also, UV filters are discouraged all of the time, but they should be outright forbidden when shooting sunsets.  The extra flat piece of glass–which is often not coated–will cut the saturation (richness of colors) and contrast of your sunset photos.

Sunset Photography Tip #14. Take off your sunglasses.  I promise if you forget to take off your sunglasses, you’ll think the photos are all darker than they really are because the LCD will look unnaturally dark.  If you forget, you’ll kick yourself when you look at the photos on the computer.

Sunset Photography Tip #15. Don’t get so carried away at looking at the pretty clouds that you get buck fever and focus on the clouds.  Remember that, for most landscape photos, the proper focus point should be one third the way up from the bottom of the photo.  This is a rough approximation of the hyperfocal distance.

 

Sunset Photography Tip #16. Shoot RAW.  I know you’ve heard it before, but sunsets are a time where this is especially important.  There is a wealth of delicate light information in a sunset that is simply thrown in the trash if you shoot JPEG.  Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Sunset Photography Tip #17. Look for objects which are reflecting the sunset colors.  Perhaps it is a building behind you, or a car windshield, or a still body of water, etc.  With the reflection, you can incorporate it into the larger landscape or just make it a photo of its own.

Sunset Photography Tip #18. The best sunsets seem to happen on the evening of a rainy day.  If the clouds start to break up at all around sunset, grab your camera and head out.  Just trust me on this one.

Sunset Photography Tip #19. Make sure to use a little flash if you’re shooting a portrait of someone standing in front of a sunset.  Otherwise their face will look dark and muddy.

Sunset Photography Tip #20. If you want the sun to look large in the sunset, use a telephoto lens.  If you want the sun to look small in the scene, use a wide-angle lens.

Sunset Photography Tip #21. Don’t forget to change your picture style.  This can be changed afterward if you shoot in RAW, but if you shoot JPEG, you’ll definitely want to use the landscape picture style (Canon) or picture control (Nikon).

Sunset Photography Tip #22. Watch out for birds!  Including a few flying birds in the sky can really add interest to a landscape.

I captured this photo in Zion National Park. The sunset was a bit lackluster, but there was just enough color in the sky to add some interest in the top area of the photo.

Sunset Photography Tip #23. When the sun is still up, the bright light in front of you may make your LCD appear darker than it really is.  The same is true for the “second sunset” which happens 20 minutes after the sun actually sets.  When it is darker at this time, you might think your images are brighter than they really are.  Because of the varying light conditions that occur when shooting sunsets, it is best to trust the histogram rather than the LCD.  Don’t delete until you can view the images on your computer.

Sunset Photography Tip #24. Don’t get tricked into using the sunset icon on your mode dial.  That is an automatic mode and will take away your ability to choose a creative aperture, shutter speed, etc.

Sunset Photography Tip #25. Download a good sunrise/sunset app for your phone.  Just search in your smartphone’s app store and get a free app that will give you a calendar of sunrise and sunset times.  Never miss a sunset again!

Sunset Photography Tip #26. No mistake you make in shooting a sunset will be as obvious as an uneven horizon line.  Use the bubble level on your ballhead or the electronic level on some newer DSLRs to make sure the horizon is straight.

Sunset Photography Tip #27. If you’re shooting a portrait of someone standing in front of a sunset, be careful where you place the horizon line.  It always looks awkward when the horizon line is placed at the level of the neck of the subject.  You’re usually safer putting the horizon line around the person’s tummy or chest area.

foreground objects for sunset photography

Sunset Photography Tip #28. Make sure to clean your lens and sensor!  Dust spots will be obvious when viewed against the bright sky when you’re stopped down to high aperture values.

Sunset Photography Tip #29. Use a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky and allow the camera to get enough light to expose the landscape.  The darkening of the sky will also add color to the scene.

Sunset Photography Tip #30. Watch for Reflections!  The photo above shows me holding the cover of Shutterbug Magazine where I was lucky enough to get the cover shot.  Shooting that picture, there wasn’t that much color in the sky, but it was just enough to bathe the water in the foreground in a little color that made the photo feel rich and interesting.  Always look for ways you can reflect the sunset colors, which makes it feel like you had more of a sunset than you really did.

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