To capture an awe-inspiring sunset with the landscape bathed in purple, yellow and red hues is the holy grail for many landscape photographers. I have on more than a few occasions been stood in a remote location with a row of other photographers who seemed to appear out of the woodwork, all waiting and hoping to get the amazing light show as the sun sinks below the horizon.
However in order to capture a wonderful sunset shot there is often a lot more work than just waiting for the light and pointing your camera at the sky. Sunsets can be tricky to capture, the amount of light and its colour are changing so quickly, so it is necessary to work fast, it is essential to keep checking your exposure and any filters you are using. Digital has some benefits for shooting sunsets as you can shoot multiple shots as the light changes, where as film users have to be more economical especially when shooting with large format cameras as the cost of film processing can be high.
It is worth remembering that often the best colour in a sunset may happen up to an hour after the sun has passed below the horizon, I have stood patiently and waited for the light to change often long after other photographers have packed up and headed home. As the sun sinks further under the horizon the light starts to get redder and is often much more appealing than the bright yellowy white ball of the sun before it reaches the horizon.
Shooting directly into the setting sun can cause some problems with exposure, clipped highlights and lens flair. If you are shooting digitally you have to accept that the sun itself will be pure white on the captured image as the exposure range between the sun and shadows is far too great to record. When the sun has gone below the horizon the exposure gets easier as exposure range is reduced. Lens flair differs from lens to lens but generally high quality wide angle lenses suffer less from it.
While it is possible to shoot a sunset over any landscape photography spring tx around water can lead to the most dramatic results, the water’s surface acts as a giant mirror and reflects the colours in the sky, the landscape appears to be bathed in the rich sunset tones. Rivers, lakes, lochs and the sea or really anything wet can make great foreground interest and create that dramatic sunset you are after.
The weather plays a huge role in the quality of the sunset, if it has been a bright blue day the sun may simply drop below the horizon with nothing more than a little yellow glow and on overcast days it just gets dark. The ideal conditions are when there is some higher level cloud and the horizon is clear, this gives the light something to bounce off and creates the wonderful colours. If there are lots of clouds on the horizon the sun may struggle to punch its way through it, but sometimes you get lucky.
The last bit of advice I can offer for photographing sunsets is simple, get out there and shoot more of them.