Sunsets are unpredictable and fleeting, but for a few, that’s where the magic lies. We put together this quick guide to shooting vivid skies. Read on for getting started.
The sunset itself is fleeting, so do some work behind-the-scenes to boost your chances of success. First, scout your location during the daytime to find a vantage point and composition that suits your vision. Get everything ready in advance, and track the sun using an app like PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris to make sure the time of your shoot will coincide with the best lighting conditions possible. Check the weather report, as cloudy skies tend to make for more dynamic sunsets. Humid evenings also tend to create less saturated colors than drier ones. Clean your lens and filters before your shoot. When you shoot into the sun, any dust spots will become more noticeable.
You’ll arrive in the light, but don’t forget you have to make the trip back to your car or bike. If you’re shooting sunsets, you’ll travel in the dark, so bring a flashlight or headlamp to illuminate your path. It’s also a good idea to know the terrain as well as possible and study it before your trip. You can also use your flashlight to set your focus, as your camera might struggle in low light.
Think of the golden hue of sunset as an invitation to experiment with color. Perhaps you pair the oranges of the sun with the blues of the sea for a complementary color palette, or you go for a harmonious look by pairing the sky’s fiery reds with the warmer tones found in sand. Each color choice will convey a different mood, transforming your scene from energetic to serene and back again. Sunsets are often saturated, so you could add drama by combining them with an equally saturated foreground.
The more creative you can get, the better. Even a small pond can transform an otherwise ordinary sunset into an ethereal moment. Look for naturally occurring reflections in lakes and streams, or use mirrored buildings for a similar effect. If you want to take it a step further, you can bring a mirror from home or frame the sunset in the reflection of a car mirror.