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Sunsets in September

Today’s blog post is written by Peter, one of our new monthly blog correspondents, and a Drummers and Ursids alumni.  He gives some excellent advice about how to photograph the beauty of sunsets in the fall, as well as some excellent tips and tricks for when you are in the field with your camera.

Peter L.
Peter L.

This is a great month for sunset pictures! The temperatures are pleasant, the air is fresh, and the colors are beautiful! Fall is the perfect time for walking through the woods, or hiking along a trail to find a good sunset spot. The spot you pick for taking your sunset pictures is important, but the decisions of when and how to get those pictures is even more important.

First, you must choose the right time to capture those amazing photographs! It is very important to arrive at your photography location prior to the sun actually setting. Look up the sunset time for your area in an almanac or on the Internet and try to arrive at least a half-hour before the sun disappears. In addition, check the local weather forecast and find a day when you think there will be some clouds. If it is too overcast, you will not be able to see the sun, but nice white cumulus and cirrus clouds make for a good photo.

Secondly, composure is essential to your photograph. You want to include clouds, a line of trees, horizons, or other things of interest in your photo. Make sure that horizons or tree lines in your photos are straight, because a crooked photo does not make a good photo. Also, a sunset reflection on a lake or pond is beautiful! Try to center the main part of your sunset, cloud formation, or reflection, or divide the picture with prominent trees, landmarks, or other items of interest.

Third, exposure is critical to a breathtaking picture. Depending on your camera, you may have different settings to experiment with. The camera that I have (which is not real high-tech) has a sunset picture setting on it, but all cameras are different and my camera’s sunset setting is not always the best. If your sunset picture is too bright, it will bleach out the fine details of the bright areas. If it is too dark, the details or color of the shaded regions may be lost. Experiment with settings and try to achieve the exposure that you feel is best.

Fourth, focus or blurriness can make or break a picture shoot. Of utmost importance, focus on your subject. Depending on your picture taking location, where you want to focus can vary. It might be as simple as focusing on the clouds and colors, or perhaps you want to focus on a lone pine tree with the blurred sunset behind it. Also, try to eliminate accidental blurriness. Blurriness can result from unsteady hands. This issue plagues every photo taker, but can be eliminated by using a tripod or a natural rest. Try sitting on the ground and resting your camera on your knee, or lay on the ground with your elbows on the ground.

Finally, here is an interesting fact and some helpful tips.

1. Watch for the green flash! Lasting barely more than a second, and rarely seen on land, the green flash requires a clear, stable atmosphere and you must pay very close attention to see it. Most often seen on the ocean, green flashes can appear on land just after the sun disappears, or right before it appears at sunrise.

1. Walk to a spot where people do not usually go to take pictures; it will make your picture unique.
2. Take lots of extra pictures! You can always delete photos that did not turn out well, but you can never capture the same sunset again.
3. Do not leave the sunset until it is totally gone; you never can tell when a good picture might appear.
4. Take extra batteries, preferably rechargeable (better for the environment) and an extra memory card.