As a Cornishman growing up near the sea I have always had a strong connection with the coast. This passion for the coastline has stayed with me although I now live in Somerset and is apparent in many of my Landscape images.
Although I bought my first digital camera in 1999 when my daughter was born I purchased my first DSLR in 2004 which was the Sigma SD9. This was the beginning of something very special for me and I soon became hooked with this camera and software. My SD9 went pretty much everywhere I went and so my love for Sigma cameras started.
In 2009 I bought the higher resolution Sigma SD14 which is the camera I have taken some of my favourite seascapes with. I have always had very pleasing results using the SD14 with the 15-30EX which has become my workhorse camera /Lens combination for the majority of my Landscape work.
In 2010 I took ownership of the SD15 which in my opinion is an excellent camera with some very good improvements over the SD14. I find this camera very easy to use and the output from the camera to be very accurate most of the time making the RAW processing much easier and far less time consuming. I am able to print images on my A3 printer that are of very high quality and have had some of my work printed large up to A1 and have been very pleased with the results.
I have started selling some of my prints locally and have recently had some interest from some larger companies regarding using some of my work. I am also currently looking to update my website for a newer website to be able to show my potential and of course the potential of the Sigma cameras and great Lens collection.
I hope you find my tips for taking Sunsets and Sunrises to be of some help after all I have learnt from making many mistakes over the years!
Images by Lea Tippett
Here are my ten tips when shooting a sunset or a sunrise and are in no particular order.
1: WEATHER I always check the weather conditions ahead of time hoping the forecast predicts some cloud to go with the sun. I always find some cloud adds to a photograph and can result in fantastic colours. It is also worth noting the tide times for the area that you plan to photograph if you are visiting the coast.
Holywell Bay in Cornwall. Sigma SD14 15-30EX F20 @ 1/6 Sec Lens at 15mm ISO 50 -1.7 Exp Comp.
2: EQUIPMENT There are some very helpful pieces of equipment available now to aid you in obtaining the sun position for a given sunset or sunrise. I have a sun compass which I would be lost without. The sun compass is a very easy gadget to use and just requires lining up with North to give you the suns position for any given month. This compass can be obtained from this website http://www.flight-logistics.com/ .There are now extremely good mobile phone apps which will give the same results for both iphone and android mobiles. I would also recommend TPE (The Photographers ephemeris) which is a fantastic piece of software to predict the suns position for a given day. This is available for your PC and for iphone for free although donations are appreciated. You can find this software at http://stephentrainor.com/tools/
3: FILTERS One of the most annoying problems I have encountered with sunrise/sunsets is burning out the sky which on many occasions has been impossible to correct when processing the image. I have found the use of ND Graduated filters the easiest and best way to overcome this problem. The ND Graduated filter cut out the harshness from the sun and aids in balancing out the exposure of the sky with the exposure of the foreground. The filters also give great definition and colour to the clouds giving you a more pleasing result and less editing with the computer at a later stage.
Godrevy Lighthouse in Cornwall. Sigma SD15 15-30EX F22 @ 0.8 Sec Lens at 25mm ISO 50
4: KEEP CLEAN Always carry a soft Lens cleaning cloth to ensure that the Lens and Filters stay immaculately clean. This is a very simple tip but quite often forgotten about by many people when shooting Landscapes and is especially important when shooting towards the sun. I have found to my dismay to have lens flare which I’ve only noticed when processing some of my images back home on the PC.
5: EXPOSURES (AB) Shooting at different exposures is important during sunset and sunrise as there is no correct exposure. I set my SD15 to Manual most of the time and then rely on the cameras metering system to tell me roughly what exposure time is required depending on the F value I have dialled into the camera. If I want multiple images of the same image at different exposures I set the SD15 to Auto Bracket Setting (AB). This gives me the option of shooting 3 or 5 images at up to + or – 3 stops. This allows me greater flexibility when checking the detail in some shadow areas of Landscapes with sunrise and sunsets in them and enables me to use the image with the most detail.
Quantock Hills in Somerset. Sigma SD15 15-30EX F20 @ 0.6 Sec Lens at 15mm ISO 50
6: COMPOSITION I find the composition of an image taken at sunrise or sunset to be one of the single most important points to get correct and can be the making or the breaking of the image. I always look at the layout of the image and of course if the rule of thirds apply to the image or not. I find that some kind of interest in the foreground like some stones or pools of water to be a good way to balance a sunrise or sunset image. This is a good way to introduce shadows and reflections into the image which would not be there otherwise so it’s always worth looking for that something to spice up the image a bit.
7: STICK AROUND Keep taking images until it is dark as I have found that a lot of photographers pack up and go home before the best colours in the sky appear. I find that often the suns afterglow at sunset can reward you with the most amazing colours in the sky although you will be working with exposures longer than 30 seconds.
Trebarwith strand in Cornwall. Sigma SD14 15-30EX F18 @ 13 Sec Lens at 15mm ISO100
8: IMPORTANT ACCESSORIES As I have mentioned above when working with very long exposures you will require a few pieces of kit to achieve good results. My first accessory would be a sturdy tripod to reduce camera movement. My second accessory would be a cable release to also help reduce camera movement and also enable you to set your camera to bulb setting which will allow you to take exposures as long as you would like. My last point would be to set the camera to mirror up as this will reduce the likelihood of vibration from the mirror during taking the image as this is very important when working at longer exposures.
9: MANUAL FOCUS If focusing becomes an issue in poor lighting conditions when shooting sunsets and afterglows I always tend to set the lens to manual and focus on your subject. Some lens can sometimes find it hard to focus in this kind of light and start to hunt for its focus position so I trust my eye to give me the results I require in this situation.
10: WORK IN RAW Always have your camera on RAW to get the best from a sunrise or sunset image. Many people will set there camera to a specific white balance setting such as sunset for sunset image which obviously makes sense. I actually keep my SD15 set to AWB for the majority of the time as I find that gives me a reasonably accurate white balance for most situations. Obviously RAW gives us the freedom to change white balance back at the PC so not all is lost if the white balance is not to your taste. I also set my camera to stay on either ISO50 or ISO100 depending on light levels and can’t really remember the last time I have ventured any higher than ISO200!.
One final point which should be obvious but just be aware of the suns strength and do not look into the sun if the sun is very bright. I know I know health and safety but you only get two eyes!