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Shooting Compelling Sunrises and Sunsets

Whether you’re shooting a golden sunset on top of a flat horizon or the reflections of the sky in a large body of water before the sun comes up over the horizon, there are a few things to keep in mind to make your sunrise and sunset photography even more exciting.

Look to the sky for structure. When the sun dips below the horizon enough to light the underside of nearby clouds, these wanderers of the sky often light up with color all their own. Clouds can break up the monotony of a bald sky and are frequently featured in exciting sunrise or sunset images.

Consider silhouetting an object in the foreground—like a cluster of trees, distinctive rock formation, or landmark building—against the colorful sky to add visual interest (Figure 8.12). Be careful, though, not to crowd the scene with too many silhouettes—the idea here is simplicity in the foreground and an explosion of color in the background. Keep the horizon line low in the frame to avoid including a large area of black space.

Figure 8.12

Figure 8.12 Palm trees break up the patterns of a Technicolor sunset in Fiji, adding an element of visual interest to the composition. Keep shooting even after the sun dips below the horizon, when skies and clouds can become even more vibrant and powerful.

ISO 400 • 1/100 sec. • f/9 • 16–35mm lens at 18mm

Keep shooting as the sky darkens until the color is absolutely gone. Many an intriguing image is lost because the photographer lacked the patience to see the sky all the way through to nightfall. You never know when a wisp of clouds might suddenly catch the last rays of sunlight against a deep twilight sky. You might just come away with the next shot you hang up in your living room.

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