The Weekly Challenge: Sunrise/Sunset photos!!!
The golden hour, the best light, huge dynamic range, bountiful colors and you with a camera. What could go wrong? Over the years I've made about a million mistakes so I'm going to try to give you guys some tips that should help you avoid my errors!!
Let's go through what should be the most obvious point, but is often missed. Level your camera. The most obvious mistake I make is not getting this right in the field. I often feel rushed to shoot because I worry about missing the EXACT moment. The reality is, you usually have at least a few minutes of dynamic, beautiful light in every sunrise and sunset. So take your time. Sure you can fix it in post but there have been more than a few occasions where I have filled the frame only to get home and realize a portion is about to be gone because I didn't level the horizon in the field.
Too much sky, not enough, what's the balance? Not every sunrise is going to be dynamic and not every sunset is going to shower you with vibrant colors. When this happens it makes the choice easier. The rule of thirds can guide you in a very basic way, but sometimes you have to violate that rule. In the image above the scene is significantly more important than the sky, in this case I used a very small portion of the sky so I didn't have to eliminate any portion of the vast landscape. Ultimately this is a choice that is 100% up to you, just think about it before you press the shutter.
Do you have a subject? In this case I have primary subjects and supporting. The mountains and their reflections are my primary subject, the foreground subject is the stand of trees and in the mid ground is the cabins. The sunrise isn't the subject but it does provide the amazing light for the scene to work. Try to think less about just shooting the sky and more how you can use it to enhance your scene.
Don't be afraid to turn around. Sometimes the most amazing light isn't right where the sun is rising or setting. When you arrive to a location find something to shoot not only in the direction of the sun coming up or setting, but also away from it. The soft light off clouds can create an amazing look that is hard to beat.
So how can we wrap this up?
Level your horizon and take your time
Be conscious of how much or how little of the sky you will include
Have a subject
Look all around, not in just one direction
One last tip to help you out!!! Sunbursts are all about angles and camera settings. The easiest way is to use a wide angle lens and adjust your F stop, this can be done with any lens but I find anything under 22 mm to be easiest. F 11 to F 22 will get the job done. In the image below I waited until the sun got just to the horizon, once it started to meet with the horizon line it was time to shoot. The same can be done against trees, mountains, buildings, you name it and it can work. One more thing, try to focus your camera on the point where the sun will meet with your intersection point, this gives you the potential for a more precise sunburst.