Sunset Photography Tips with Mike Browne

Sunset Photography Tips with Mike Browne

January 13, 2020 100 By Peter Engel


sunsets and sunrises are definitely one
of the most popular genres to photograph I know when I’m looking at images on
Flickr snap there are thousands and thousands of them so I thought I’d take
you out to one of my favorite sunset locations and just do a sunset shoot
with you so you can kind of see how I would approach it something which I
think to bear in mind is the picture of a sunset just a colorful sky is all well
and good it’s one thing you might get some lovely cloud formations or
something but I think it’s often better to have a scene with the sunset in it
rather than just a sunset also personally I prefer to get there when
the Sun is still quite high in the sky because I like shooting at what’s called
golden hour before the Sun has dipped over the horizon now that’s not to say
you might not get some great shots after the Sun has dipped over the horizon
just my preference and I would advise you to get there early and understand
the location try different things walk around don’t be impatient also stay
focused on what it is that you’re photographing your bed photograph is
sunset and if you take your eye off the ball because you’ve seen something
happening way over there and you think oh I’ll just go and photograph that
while I’m waiting for the light to change you bet your life the light will
change while you’re over there and you just missed a little moment which could
have been spectacular I took my eye off the ball making this film because my
favorite shot from this shoe which is this one I happen to take during one of
those intervals and the camera wasn’t rolling it’s just one of those little
moments the light was just nice I found a composition that worked and I took the
shot and to be honest I didn’t actually realize who taking that shot till they
came back to edit the film and realize and only footage to show you how I did
it so don’t make the mistakes I did and keep your eye on the ball be patient
plan your shoot think things through try different compositions and different
angles so let’s go have a look I’ll show you what I’ve done when the sun’s low in
the sky and the light coming in at an angle the repeating symmetrical pattern
could look absolutely fabulous if you can use it in a shot if you can find a
location that has some unlucky enough that I know where there is one and I use
it on my Lanzarote workshop we come down here to see if we can photograph sunset
now tonight we may or may not get a sunset but what I want to talk to you
about is using a repeating pattern because you’ve got to be very careful
when you compose the shot if you get a symmetrical pattern sort of wonky
off-center or kind of on the piss it doesn’t work it’s a really uncomfortable
thing let me see if I can show you what I mean
so we’ve got these old derelict windmills going on over here
where is it over here and we’ve got these nice little pools in the
foreground I’m hoping the Sun will come out from behind the clouds that is
currently hiding it a bit because then we’ll give us some more shadows it will
bring out those patterns even more because the Sun is very low in the sky
let me have a look and see if I can show you what they mean about repeating and
symmetry so camera rolling focus up here heat up a bit of video here we go
now right now with the shot composed so that the symmetry is beginning kind of
in the middle and the windmill is just slightly off-center it looks pretty good
the camera is very level with the horizon but if you kind of put it a
little bit wonky like that and the horizon isn’t straight it doesn’t look
as good you can sort of edge yourself to the side and maybe use the symmetry you
see if I put it here it’s kind of uncomfortable by trying to include these
old windmills here it’s almost like too much less is more we come across here it
doesn’t quite work as well in my opinion as it does if I move back over here and
pop the corner of these little salt pools right smack in the middle of the
composition so let’s have a little go shooting that one shall we
mm-hmm how are we going about it well I’m using my 16 millimeter lens I’m not
using a super wide one or anything I am going to shoot at about 200 ISO how much
steps this field we’re going to want with this shot well quite a bit because
I’m going to be angling the camera downwards becomes a bit closer to you so
you can see what I’m trying to do I’m going to angle the camera at downwards a
bit because it makes that foreground stronger when using a wide lens
so we want quite a lot of depth of field so I’m going to aim for around f-16
where are we going to focus not sure yet we will find out and we also need to
check our shutter speed to make sure I can hold this still obviously so going
on what I just showed you in the video let’s see what we can do so I’ve got my
pool in the middle at f-16 all I need to do is focus on the second pull in I
think yep it’s about there that will do it nicely make sure my compositions nice
and level and shoot a shot now I’m going to check the histogram because we’ve got
a very bright sky going on over on this side here and I want to make sure I’ve
got enough data my histogram says that I’m bang hard up against the left and if
I can show it to you let me see if I can and hold that up close yeah there you go
you should just about be able to see even though it’s a bit out of focus that
one histogram is pretty hard to the left I want to bring it over the other way a
bit by brightening up the exposure so let’s dial in I don’t know two-thirds of
a stop more exposure and see what we’ve got
looks to me like it’s pretty good if I can find my composition again focus in
the same place there we go and just squeeze that shot the Sun has gone
behind a cloud which is really annoying because it spoiled my light but now
looking at my histogram it’s taken a step to the right so that’s a lot better
if I can do this for you in the video camera I’m going to try because it will
make life a bit easier so if I go see that way you see and then I bring it
over see how the histogram has moved a little between those two shots just
saying there’s a little bit more data so if we can get the Sun to come out and
add some shadows I think we’ve got quite a nice shot and it’s nice and
symmetrical I’m going to then take another shot looking straight down these
lovely symmetrical rows towards the lighthouses right
Suns coming out shadows are appearing so we don’t to mess around because they may
not last long and it’s not very strong Sun it’s a very hazy kind of diffused
light but at least there is some kind of shadow going on so get our focus right
it’s about there that light is just too soft it’s just too soft in the time it
took to walk over there the light change you have to move very very quickly with
light it won’t hang around liked waits for no
man so I’m going to stop the camera for a moment until it comes back now in fact
I’m not I’m just going to step out the shot and let it roll and see if it pops
out behind the cloud see if you can see it you know what that’s about the best
we’re going to get because there’s a huge amount of haze and cloud going on
up there and in a moment the sun’s going to hide behind a very large cloud indeed
so I’m going to take my shot we have now got just a hint of the clouds of the
shadows that I wanted let’s just take that shot quickly again in the time it
took to say that it disappeared so I’m just going to stand here and watch here
they come here they come just a few little bit of shadow take another one
see if it works you they’re there but they’re soft they are so soft I think
one more and just see if there’s any difference I reckon I should better pull
them up a little bit in post-production let’s have a look my histogram that’s
telling me that I think I’ve got everything I need
let’s just move down the side here and have a look see if we can get a shot
looking straight down through those see what that symmetry looks like okay so so
this one to work I’m going to have to go and stand on the next little bit over
there so you just enjoy the shot well I just run round there then you can see
what I’m doing because I’m not going to walk into one of the salt pans and spoil
all their lovely salt so here we are if I’m stood in the middle of your shot
here and I know I’m probably a sit away you may not even be able to see me at
all well let’s have a look and see what kind of shot we can take from here
again let me roll a little bit of video here we go so darken that down a bit and
so we can bring a beard of life back into the sky there we go maybe there but
look if I’m here do you see how it’s kind of uncomfortable the lines don’t
quite line up but just by moving a tiny bit to the right
suddenly it all kind of lines out and it looks a lot nicer also if it’s a bit
wonky like that it just doesn’t work if you shoot it like this it’s just it’s
just kind of uncomfortable in my opinion now it’s only my opinion you could use
this black line straight down the middle but I prefer it from over here I think
so I’m going to have a go at taking the shot but I think I’m going to rotate the
camera and I’m going to shoot it that way up because I just think it’ll look a
little bit nicer so stop on video there we go let’s have a go and taking the
shot let’s line it up and see what we’ve got now right now the Sun is on the edge
of a cloud it looks really quite nice place such a tricky exposure so I’m on
xyx teen for lots of depth of field I’m using a 250th of a second there about
200 ISO let’s take a shot make sure all my composition is nice and straight and
lined up I’m going to do a landscape shape first just in case move a bit to
make sure my lines are straight and there’s a shot check the histogram mr.
Graham says you should just about get away with it we’ll have a look when we
get these into Lightroom in part two now let’s just do what I said originally and
rotate the camera the other way up and try the shot that way so make sure those
lines coming towards me come into the corners nice and straight get my point
of focus good that looks pretty good make sure everything is straight and
level I think we’re good there and take the shot now if we were really really
lucky and the sky was clear which you can see from those clouds it’s not going
to we could possibly balance the on top of one of those old ruined
windmills up there I don’t think it’s going to happen I’m going to hang around
for a while and if it does it does and we will come back in and if it doesn’t I
just want to say I hope that was useful to you really really practice using your
arms and legs and hands and knees when you do your composition think about your
shots use your seven building blocks of photography use your camera settings to
take your vision out of your head and down through your arms look at that
luckiest man in the world the Sun has just kind of snuck out from under a
cloud and if I’m quick and I’m lucky I just might be able to have it up above
the windmill with just a hint of a starburst going on if I use a very small
aperture it’s not quite going to starburst though because there’s too
much haze in the air so that’s not actually going to work but we have got
some really rather nice shadows going on in the salt and a few little sparkles I
love that moody sky up at the top you know what while we’re waiting I’m
starting to notice more and more interesting shots I’ve just thought I’d
change the camera angle just a little bit so we can have a little look along
here I just have a little walk along this edge and see what happens
because what I’m seeing right now is that the Sun is starting to get lower
it’s starting to drop below that heavy Bank of cloud let’s just roll over this
video for you so you can see what I’m talking about so just the exposure so
you can see it there you go there’s the Sun there’s the heavy Bank of cloud so
we might be lucky we might get some nice really orange light glinting off these
little pulls of salt and then while we’re waiting I’m just going to do a
little couple of experiments to see if there’s anything that can be found now
this is quite a nice shot from here looking diagonally across here that’s
where is it there is this old kind of abandoned windmill there we’ve got some
quite nice light going on and I like the way the sky up into this corner is
getting very very bright indeed let’s have a go at shooting it shall we
again I’m going to shoot from here and I’m actually going to include I think
we’re going to both windows no not you know what I don’t like it with both
windows but if I was to shoot it from here a similar shot to the one you’ve
got in the video camera see if it’s doable it is just about so I’ve got a
little diamond shape in the lower left corner let me show you here we go if I
was to shoot it sort of from here I don’t think it works but if you look in
the lower left corner of the frame if I get that lined up nicely corner to
corner over that little pool we’ve got quite a nice little diamond shape going
on just there and I think that triangular shape sort of lower left of
the frame right at the bottom helps to point our way into the scene into the
windmill so let’s have a go let’s see if we can shoot it sorry guys I’m much too
close to the camera but I don’t have a camera person I’m down here babbling
away on my own so let’s see if we can get that shot let’s see what our
exposures likely to be lots of depth of field on that f-18 I’m getting about a
fortieth of a second it should be enough for many on a 16 mil lens why am I using
f-18 I want a lot of depth of field in my shot I really love the moodiness of
the clouds let’s very carefully move just line up those diagonals here in
that triangle and squeeze that shot have a look see what the histogram has to say
about it all that looks good it looks really good I’m going to take a little
walk along the wall here this one here there it is and I’m just going to have a
look to see if there’s some other shots there while we’re hanging out here you
know we’ve got to utilize everything we’ve got try everything we’ve got
here’s the thing which I think could be nice instead of using the white squares
running up through here I meant using one of the black lines as part of the
shot let’s see we’ve got to milk the location we absolutely need to milk the
location even though the lights very very hazy it’s not the best light but
I see like a bit low I don’t want to go lower because that stops me from being
able to I’m just clipping let’s have a look in the video now I am just clipping
that windmill there into the edge of my frame and I don’t really want it there
so what I can do is to a slightly sneak that focal length out and that will lose
it for me and keep those rectangular pools going
on and this leading line running straight down the middle here going up
to our windmills so kill the video take a shot now then it might expose your app
a little more than I think it should be just extend that focal length a bit get
more point of focus we’re going straight to the Sun make sure everything’s nice
and level there we go check the histogram always check the
histogram eyes like histograms don’t that’s looking good I might just walk
down here a little further and try using another set of parallel lines going to
the central windmill and see how that looks
it’s not bad and we’re going to go through these when we have a look at
them in light from exposure should be exactly the same because nothing has
changed love shooting into the Sun it’s just the best and again I think we’ve
got a nice shot this is what we call Golden Hour
it’s before sunset personally I prefer shooting gold now than I do the actual
sunset sunsets are ok they’re great but I do think the Golden Hour is more
dramatic and if you can get a clean Sun and you get a starburst off it it looks
totally amazing let’s just stop the camera and see what happens in a little
while so I’ve been down here now what 45 minutes
maybe an hour watching the Sun go down and I think as you can see it is now set
behind this Bank of low cloud on the horizon
I think there’s some quite nice shots in there so using a bit of symmetry in your
foreground can really work well you got to be careful how you use it and if you
can can combine it a golden hour when the lights good it starts to look really
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will keep you up to date with anything that’s going on so I’m going to head on
back it’s getting a bit cold down here that’s why I’m wearing a jacket and I’ll
see you later take care