A Quick Tip For Better Sunset Shots

Huntington Beach Pier

Sunset Shots Made Easy

My favorite time of day has always been when the sun starts heading towards the horizon. Especially when there are swirling clouds in the sky to add some color and drama. You can make the scene more dramatic by making a few simple adjustments in your camera. The next time you’re enjoying a sunset take a few shots with different exposure settings. We’ve all taken pictures of sunsets, and I’d wager you were disappointed with the results from time to time. If you let the camera do the work for you, your image may look flat and uninspiring. That’s because the camera did what it’s suppose to, which is to get as close to an even exposure as possible, resulting in dull, unsaturated colors. Take control of the situation, and rescue your next image. I’m not saying you need to go to full manual mode, here is a much simpler solution. Turn your camera dial to aperture priority mode. The meter in the viewfinder or LCD will usually show a little graph ranging from -2 to +2 in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 stops depending on the camera and its current settings. Zero is considered (by the camera) to be the best, or correct exposure. Now find the exposure adjustment dial, and flick it a click or two so it reads a negative value. This is Exposure Compensation, you’re  telling the camera you don’t want to have it decide what a good exposure is. Take the shot, you should see a difference between the shot set at zero, and your new adjustment. The colors in the sky are more saturated, but watch out, if you adjust too far, the image will become too dark, especially below the horizon. Land features like hills, trees, buildings will begin to silhouette below around -1. Sunsets where there is water like a beach or lake are a little more forgiving because light will reflect off the surface. That’s it, now go out there and capture some great sunset shots, but first, take a look at a few examples.

Huntington Beach Pier At Sunset

Huntington Beach Pier At Sunset

Channel Islands Sunset

Channel Islands Sunset

Across The Valley

Across The Valley

Desert Sunburst

Desert Sunburst

Brooding Sunset

Brooding Sunset

 

Related Images:

Shallow Creek Reflections

Shallow Creek Reflections - HDR

Developing Your Ability to ‘See’

Nature preserves are great places to explore and photograph. The variety of subjects to be discovered can provide tons of photographic opportunities, all one needs to do is slow down and ‘see’ what surrounds you.

I say ‘see’ because it is one thing to just walk around and scanning your environment, but it is another to actually take the environment in visually, examining different angles. Becoming in tune with your visual senses allows you to find details that remain hidden if you were to just glance around.

The single most effective way to develop your seeing ability is to simply slow down and take your time. Whether you’re in the middle of a bustling city, or taking an afternoon stroll through a nature preserve, let your eyes and your mind take in the details. Take notice of textures, shadows, and reflections. When something really grabs your attention, explore it further from different angles and perspectives.

When you’re ready to compose your shot in the view finder, pre-visualize how you want your final image to look like, make the necessary adjustments to your camera, and fire away.

The image featured below was a result of using the above exercise. The barren trees seemed too busy when looking at them straight on, however, looking down at the creek presented some possibilities. I found the angle I wanted only after fumbling around trying to balance myself on the slick rocks along the shore. Only after I was confident everything was just right, I deliberately pressed the shutter button.

If you find yourself unable to slow down, the second most important thing that will help you is bring (and use) a tripod. The act of setting up the tripod for a shot inherently forces you to slow down your shooting process; hopefully enough to allow your brain to fully engage in composing your images.

Forest Reflection

Forest Reflection

I hope this little tip helps you with your own photographic adventures. What techniques do you employ while in the act of creating your own works of art? Sound off and leave a comment or two.

Related Images:

Keep Taking Pictures When There’s Nothing To Shoot.

Daisy - HDR

No Sunrise

No Sunrise – No Problem

Not Quite What You Expected

Have you ever gotten to a location, only to find it isn’t the grand spectacle you were expecting? You’ve planned to photograph a sunrise weeks in advance, got up extra early the day of the shoot, driven for hours to get to your location only to find the sky is covered with a heavy blanket of clouds.  It can be a downer if you let it, and you may fall into a mind trap thinking, “Well, there’s nothing to shoot now.”

I say hogwash! A situation very similar to the one described above happened to me just a couple weeks ago. What did I do about it? I changed my mind set, and surveyed the landscape. Off to one side of the park were some park benches overlooking the haze covered neighborhoods below. They looked kind of boring to me. Driving up the hill, I noticed a patch of daisies off to the side, even in the pre-dawn light, the yellow popped with vibrancy. I took a closer look, found a spot to set up my tripod and got to work framing and composing several shots. I also took a few shots of the monument I was visiting to add a bit of variety.

There is always something to shoot, you just have to look harder to find it. It may not be what you expected to photograph, but then again, with a flexible creative mind you can find a solution that may be better than your initial subject.

 

Tips To Overcome On Location Stumbling Blocks

Here are a few tips that can help you break through stumbling blocks, and unleash your creative mind.

  • Look for finer details. Instead of grand vistas, break the scene up into smaller and smaller elements until something interesting reveals itself to you.
  • Get close to a subject like flowers, plants, a park bench and make it stand out within the broader scene.
  • Try something new that you haven’t done before, or brush up on an old and rusty technique.
  • Look for different angles. Get down on your belly, ir if you can, get as high as you can (stand on a bench or climb a tree) and shoot down.
Veteran's Memorial

Veteran’s Memorial

Daisy - HDR

Daisy – HDR

 

 

Final Thoughts

When planning on your next photo adventure keep in mind things may not be how you envisioned it. If all else fails, return to the location several times to get the image you want. Another benefit to multiple visits is familiarity.

Related Images:

Backroad California Treasure In HDR

IMG_0628_HDR-Edit-Edit

 

California’s varied landscape is a veritable treasure chest for photographers. From beaches to mountains, and everything in between, one doesn’t have to travel too long for a change of scenery. I was doing some cloud chasing one winter day, and got lost on a country backroad when all of a sudden the sky exploded with texture just as varied as California’s vast landscape. It was about an hour and a half  before sunset, and warm hues were just starting to grace the sky.

I pulled off to the side of the road, and trudged through the roadside tundra towards the barbed wire fence, and stood in awe at the scene before me. I fired off several shots with my camera, and happily drove home.

Whenever there are clouds in the sky, my shutter finger starts twitching, and the urge to drop everything, grab my gear and hit the road is almost unbearable. Especially when I know that somewhere not to far away are scenes just like the one below waiting to be admired, and captured.

Field & Sky - HDR

Field & Sky – HDR

Related Images:

It’s In The Bag – A Fishy View of the World

wpid-IMG_6547_HDR.jpg

 

 

image

It’s In The Bag

This article is the start of a new series featuring the gear, tools, and gadgets I use when I go out shooting. I will also share some thoughts, experiences, and of course images along the way.

The 15mm Fish-eye

To kick things off, I figured I’d go with my favorite lens in my kit. My trusty ol’ fish-eye lens. Being a wide angle high distortion junkie, this lens became my favorite the instant I coupled it onto my camera.

Make no mistake, this is a specialty lens, and while it is addictive and fun to play with, there are some limitations you should be aware of.

First lets run through the pros:

Being a prime lens (a single focal length as opposed to a zoom lens, which is variable) it is exceptionally sharp.

  • It has a diagonal 180 field of view. You can almost take a picture of a person standing next to you.
  • At f2.8, it does quite well in low light situations when shooting wide open.
  • If you like getting up close and personal with your subject, you can get within inches away with this puppy.
  • This lens provides a unique perspective, especially when using creative shooting angles.

And now some cons:

  • Not recommended for portraiture, unless of course you (and your subject) have a sense of humor.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to eliminate distracting elements from the frame due to its extreme field of view.
  • If you want a straight horizon, you gotta put it dead center in the frame, and even then, it may not be entirely straight.
  • It’s easy to capture your own body parts in the frame, especially your feet when you tilt the camera down.
  • For this particular make and model, you will need a camera with a full frame sensor to take full advantage of it.
  • Most people will get tired of looking at fish-eye images after a while, as with everything else (except bacon), moderation is sound advice.
image

Tunnel Parking Lot at Yosemite

Monrovia Library

Monrovia Library

Make a Sunny Wish

Make a Sunny Wish

Goofin with the kid

Fish-eye'd Portrait

Fish-eye’d Portrait

Desert Atmospheres

Desert Atmospheres

Deadly Curve

Deadly Curve

I just had to sneak a couple of the little one in there…as you can see, you can cram a lot of scene into a lens like this.

Next week I’ll show off something random, but somehow photography related, I promise. In the mean time, feel free to like, share, and leave a comment. My goal is to post a new article in this series every Wednesday.

Related Images:

A Nose Up My Lens

wpid-IMG_6532.jpg

If this horse got any closer, he would have been taking the picture himself.

image

Why the long face?

Related Images:

Dockside Reflection Abstract – HDR

Harbor Reflections in B&W HDR

While playing around a boat launch, I captured the reflections off the water to create this abstract HDR image.

Harbor Reflections in B&W HDR

Harbor Reflections in B&W HDR

Related Images:

Capturing the Forest Details

Needles

Sometimes a scene is overwhelming, too vast, or too busy. One way to deal with this is to capture just the details of a scene, working with a subject right in front of you.  Drilling down and concentrating on the play of light, color, and shadow is one way to discover hidden compositions within a scene. Simplify your composition. This image is one such example, and one of my favorite images too.

Needles

Needles

Related Images:

%d bloggers like this: