I have been told I have a different and pretty unique style for sunset photography. My sunsets are a bit darker and moodier than most other sunset images I see out there and that is by design. When I was learning photography back in the mid 1980’s I never photographed a sunset. It never crossed my mind actually until a few years ago when I was out photographing birds and I noticed an incredible sunset and I wanted to capture it.
Well, I hate to admit it but my first sunset image didn’t turn out so great. I did what most photographers do, I just snapped a picture and hoped it captured what I saw. The problem with this is it might capture what you saw but it doesn’t capture what you experienced. I learned when I started to really try and photograph sunsets its not what you saw but what you experienced that is important. In other words, how you felt during the sunset and that is what I try and capture with my camera. This comes from many countless hours behind a camera, sunset after sunset, tweaking camera settings and working with the composition of the scene in front of me trying to photograph what I was experiencing.
Last week I headed out to photograph another sunset. They are very hard, almost nearly impossible, to predict but I do watch the weather and the clouds each day to see what might occur in the evening as the sun begins to descend for the night. Sometimes I hit it right and sometimes mother nature throws me a curve ball and I come home empty handed, thus the frustration of the nature photographer.
This particular sunset was a bit tricky for me to photograph. I had to photograph it from a different vantage point and there was just enough ripples on the water to take away the desired glass-smooth reflection I always try to find and capture. Another problem was early on only a small portion of the clouds started to light up with color so my original “composition” had to be changed pretty quickly to adjust for the less than cooperating light I was getting. The sky was loaded with clouds but for some reason only a small band of color appeared, as shown in the first image, on the bottom of the clouds. Most of the sky was dark and not very interesting so I opted to quickly change the composition as well as try for a panoramic style of shot as shown in the second image.
The third image is what I always hope for when photographing sunsets. I wait it out until every ounce of color is gone before I pack up and leave. I learned from a sunset shoot I did a few years ago never leave until it is dark or you might miss the best part of the sunset. This particular evening was no different. I waited it out, staying long after the other photographers were gone, and my efforts paid off. It wasn’t a big and grand sunset, it was still quite small and concentrated, so I had to quickly recompose my shot but I ended up with lots of dark rich color and a nice reflective composition.
I shoot them dark and moody. For me sunsets are just that way so that is how I try and capture them with my camera. I have tried to shoot them differently, the ways other photographers see them, and so far I just don’t seem to get the results I like when I go against what my mind is telling me to do. The best piece of advice I can give anyone about photography is photograph what you love and photograph what you feel. Your best images will only come when you are true to your instincts and photograph things the way you see them. This applies to composition as well as image exposure. Lastly, if you are looking to enhance your photogaphy skills check out these Ebooks. They aren’t mine but I do suggest them to help with your photography endeavors of all kinds. I had thought about doing my own photography literature but there are so many great ones out there already I saw no need to add to the already over crowded market but rather just help promote those already out there. Take a look at them and see if they can help you take your photography endeavors to the next level.