As waterfalls dried up in late fall
throughout Arkansas, my attention turned to sunrises and sunsets. Following are
some tips on taking photos of these color splashes.
With these low-light conditions,
you will need a tripod, or at least to set your camera on something.
Positioning yourself so the sun
rises or sets over water gives you more reflections to work with, but clouds
are more important. Without clouds, you'll still get a warm orange/red glow,
but only a few angular degrees above the horizon -- about the height of your
outstretched hand and thumb. If you find interesting foreground that high, say
a crooked tree in the distance, you can zoom in with a lens (100 mm or greater)
to frame that and then a cloudless sunrise or sunset may work.
With clouds, things can get more
spectacular, but you'll need a gap between the horizon and the clouds. The sun
sinking into ground fog or a marine layer is a fizzle. With that gap below
thick cumulus clouds or just a smattering of wispy cirrus clouds, the sun's
reflected rays pick up color from land, water, and all that extra air it has to
pass before painting the undersides of the clouds.
Keep in mind that this cloud
reflection lasts as short as 10 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon.
If you're behind buildings or in a valley, much of it will be hidden behind the
A sunrise/sunset without
interesting foreground is a kiss on the cheek instead of the lips. Almost any
foreground can do, and you just have to let your creative juices flow and see
what is available. Sunsets are a bit easier for this since you're scampering
around looking while the sun is up instead of tripping around in the dark
before the sunrise.
The foreground should usually work
as a silhouette, with the details your eye can see gone, but there is a trick
to overcome this if you know how to superimpose images. I will often take a
shot with some fading foreground detail, even if that shot overexposes the
sunset itself, and then merge the two shots later in Photoshop. The result is
closer to what your eye can do, that amazing camera with more dynamic range
using Jello than the ones Canon and Nikon have built with their billions of
Post-processing goes beyond merging
shots, for example, vibrance, contrast, saturation, and brightness adjustments,
filters like NIK's detail extractor, and Gaussian blur to lose the cloud noise,
but that's a whole other topic.
A great way to practice is to watch
sunrises and sunsets, but first forming a mental image of how you expect it to
go, and then watching to see how your predictions turn out. See how long things
take, usually faster than you'll expect once the show gets underway.
Safety tip: staring at the sun,
even near the horizon, will toast the rods and cones of your eyes. Mucho bad. A
quick sideways glance through sunglasses is all you'll ever
Pinnacle Mountain and its reservoir
Pinnacle State Park
Morning fog flows in the valleys
Swamp cypress reaches to touch the fog
Cypress knees pay attention to mom
A vulture grows happy over something's demise
|For more pictures of Arkansas, click here.