Tag Archives: sunset

Salton Sea Sunset

Brian Auer | 02/22/2009 | Salton Sea, CA | 10mm * f/5.6 * 1/350s * ISO200

This photo was taken over at Salton Sea on the way to the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge at the south end of the lake. The three dead oak trees in the photo are somewhat of an icon for the area, and I’ve seen many photos of them before. I just so happened to arrive at this location a few minutes prior to sunset and the clouds on display were quite amazing. Shooting with my wide angle lens gave me the opportunity to catch the great textures in the ground along with the clouds in the sky.

I took several shots from this location and perspective, but I liked this one the best. I think that the strong symmetry right at center frame works well for this photo, and the difference in scenery between top and bottom frame helps to break things up. Looking back now, I probably would have shot at f/8 rather than f/5.6 to get a little better DOF and sharpness. And a graduated ND filter would have produced a much more balanced exposure, resulting in higher quality shadows and highlights. But… too late now! Maybe next time.

Salton Sea Sunset Post-Processing

This image did fairly well on Flickr recently, probably because of the extreme colors presented. Above, you can see my workflow from start to finish. And below, you can read how I processed the image using Adobe Camera Raw (all of which can also be done with Lightroom). The reason for the crazy colors is because I was trying to reproduce a cross processed effect similar to that of Velvia 100 slide film. I don’t know that I made my goal, but I’m not too disappointed with the results of this one.

    A bit underexposed in the foreground, but I wanted to keep the highlights from completely blowing out. This is where a graduated ND filter would have helped out.
    Temperature = 6750; Tint = 0; Exposure = +.35; Recovery = 18; Fill Light = 48; Blacks = 12; Brightness = +65; Contrast = +80; Clarity = 0; Vibrance = 0; Saturation = 0; I warmed the photo up a little bit while also pulling out some of the shadows and pushing down the highlights. Basically, I tried to get the foreground in good shape without worrying about the sky (which is where this next step comes in).
    Since the sky was totally blown out from the previous settings, I needed to get things back to normal. I used a horizontal graduated filter with a -1 exposure just above the horizon. I also used a vertical graduated filter with a -.5 exposure to take the left side down a bit more. These filters allowed me to keep the foreground where I set it while pulling the sky back to a usable state.
    Highlights = -32; Lights = +40; Darks = -8; Shadows = 0; This was just a quick adjustment to the tones in order to get a bit more contrast out of the image while holding back those bright highlights.
    Highlight Saturation = 0; Shadow Hue = 30; Shadow Saturation = 80; Balance = -59; This is where most of the crazy colors come from. I pushed all of the shadows and midtones into a very red hue, which is what usually happens with the Velvia 100 when cross processed.
    HUE: Orange = +100; Yellow = +25; Green = -70; Blue = +30; SATURATION: Red = +100; Orange = -100; Blue = +50; Purple = +50; LUMINANCE: Orange = +15; Green = +40; Aqua = +20; EVERYTHING ELSE = 0; In this step, I toyed around with the colors a bit more to give me something other than pure red tones. Mostly, I wanted to get the portions of the sky to turn purple since that’s an effect I’ve seen with the xpro’d Velvia film. I also tamed down some of the orange and red in the water areas.

So there you go! If you have ACR or Lightroom, try out some of these settings and see what you can come up with. It’s always fun to experiment with these things.

In addition to the settings above, I applied sharpening and noise reduction as needed.

Sunset Photos and Tips from the Readers

I recently posted an article titled “7 Ways to Avoid a Cliche Sunset Photo” and offered up some ways to think outside the box when the sun sets. I used my own photos as examples for my points, and at the end of the article I invited the readers of the blog to share their own tips and photos in the comments.

After 12 days, we had a whole lot of great tips and photos posted. So I decided that it was time to show them off! Here are 35 sunset photos and 30 sunset photography tips from 26 photographers. And keep an open mind while reading the tips because many of them can be applied to much more than just sunset photography.

John Milleker

A Sunset can be taken anywhere in the world. Give your viewer some hints to help them figure out where the image was taken.


Silhouettes tend to be a fail-safe way of enhacing your composition. Get someone to stand between you and the sun.

Scott Coulter

OK, one thing you haven’t mentioned yet is HDR… this can be good for emphasizing the colors that are present and making the cloud patterns more dramatic. Works best on days with not too much wind, so the clouds don’t blur/ghost when the exposures are blended.

Andrew Ferguson

Tim Solley

You could try HDR, as I’ve done…once.

Or, go for a detail shot.


Look to shoot the sunset reflected in an object. It can help to make the shot more abstract, and gets the viewer more engaged in the photo as they try to figure it out.

As I was reviewing the tips here I wanted to restate how important I think Brian’s #5 is. Turn around is a terrific way to get the out-of-the-box shot, and it is also SO MUCH easier to do, because you don’t get contrast issues and such… This shot is from a sunrise, but I think its a good example…


Neil Creek

Try HDR. One commenter above mentioned it, but I wanted to emphasise tonemapping for realism, not effect. Halos and dirty clouds aren’t attractive.

Shoot landmarks or icons against the sunset. Locals will recognise them and those from elsewhere can discover a beautiful new scene.

Strobe it. Wait till after the sun has set and use the fading sky as a backdrop for some strobe action.

Get experimental. I took a full spherical panorama of an iconic church in New Zealand, and remapped it into a “little planet”. Here we can see both the last of the setting sun, and the golden-lit church opposite.


Wait for the right moment.


Don’t miss the right moment. Here’s the photo of a sunset I shot from the balcony of our condo last year. We’ve had 4 days of non-stop rain in Vancouver and then all of a sudden the sky has cleared and the sun was shining, just minutes before the sunset. The sky was unbelievably beautiful, see for yourself.


Play with perception. Silhouettes work well, but get creative with them by using the +/- exposure control to really bring out the effect in camera.

Steve Berardi

Just one quick one to add: don’t put the horizon in the center–you’re photographing the sunset, so the sky should take up the vast majority of the frame.

Trevor Carpenter

OK, so here’s a couple. The first one is of the wonderful light cast by a setting sun. The second one I incorporated Jeremy Brooks’ sweet ride, in the shot.


Look for the unusual. Sometime certain weather conditions will throw interesting lighting out, even after the sun is below the horizon. For example this shaft of light.

Jeremy Brooks

And for the exception to the “the sky should take up the majority of the frame” rule, here’s one I took that is mostly railroad tracks and train cars, but with the light of the sunset at the top of the frame and reflected from the tracks.

Antoine Khater

Get low pickup a low view point.

Do not include the sun specially if you follow your tip “Go Wide” with a wide angle the sun will look just like a small spot in the picture and will loose interest and would rather look like a dust bun or something.

Use a foreground as focal point Include an object relatively big in the foreground to serve as the picture’s focal point.


There’s no need to get the sun in the frame if you’ve got something interesting in the frame….particularly a silhouette against the sunset sky.

Martin Wolf

Why not go vertical? This photo is a sunrise, but I think sunset and sunrise are very similar.


Hanging around long enough, say about half an hour, after the sun disappears below the horizon gives you the opportunity to take some long exposures, and lets you include some painting with light techniques.

Maureen Bond

I like the tip about turning around. I’m trying to use this tip with all of my photography outings. As for sunsets and sunrises I like to look for elements if possible for framing. This shot is a sunrise.

Phil Lane

Silhouettes are a good idea I agree – you can get something stark to stand out against the background.

Also, using a flash is a good ldea to let you balance the subject and the sunset

Eric Gitonga



I love the sky a half hour or so after sunset, in this image I found something that might be pretty boring during the day, but has a whole different feel in the evening.

This one might be somewhat cliche, but I tried to get silhouette’s of a couple mosque towers along the banks of the Nile, coupled with a relatively wide angle to capture as much of the clouds as possible.


This is a shot i took some time back from my balcony in Kuala Lumpur. In fact there was a plane passingby during the 30″ long shutter. Created a cool streak along the sky.

Dememtrios the traveller

Great photos and tips from all who participated! The photo-in-the-comment thing was a new feature I was testing out, and I’m so pleased with the outcome that I’ve decided to keep that feature on the blog. So you can post (relevant) photos in your comments at any time from here out!

7 Ways to Avoid a Cliche Sunset Photo

Just admit it — you can’t help yourself from taking sunset photos. We all do it. The problem is that (since we all do it) sunset photos can be extremely cliche. So when the sun starts going down, you’ve got to think outside the box to get unique photos. Here are some tips to get your creative juices flowing.

Be sure to read the note at the end of the post!

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While you might be tempted to whip out that super-telephoto lens and get up close on the sun as it goes below the horizon, you might consider going the opposite direction with your lens choice. The sky is pretty big and sunsets can cover a large portion of it. My lens of choice is the Sigma 10-20mm pulled all the way back to 10mm. This gives me over 100 degrees angle of view and it makes for some stunning landscapes and sunsets.

Sunset Flames


Sure, sunsets can be really colorful and great on their own, but they can often look the same (especially when you live in an area with very infrequent cloud cover). My solution: shoot some slide film and get it cross processed. The blueish-green photo was shot with Velvia 50 while the pinkish-purple one was shot with Velvia 100.

Darkness Creeps In

Purple Skies


If you’re with a group of photographers you’ll hear the shutters rev-up just as the sun begins to cross the horizon — this is when the colors are most obvious to our eyes. But wait around for another 10 or 20 minutes and shoot some long exposure stuff with a tripod. Even though you can’t see the colors, they’re still hanging around. After the sun sets, the upper sky will tend to turn a deep blue, almost purple.

Another Day Ends


Play around with double exposures and see what you can come up with. If you’re shooting digital, you could probably come up with all sorts of ways to combine your sunset photos to create alien landscapes. If you’re shooting film, just remember that areas of shadow will show the double image more strongly.

Alien Sunset


We’re programmed to shoot right into the sun at sunset — that’s usually where the fun stuff is happening. But take a second, peel the camera away from your face, and look around. Maybe that sunset is creating a brilliant lighting situation right behind you.

Colors of the Canyon


Take the ramp, bike, and board out of this photo and you now have a beach sunset pic that looks just like 50% of every beach sunset photo ever taken. Look for things to place in the foreground in order to add more interest to the scene.

End of the Watch


Sunset photos are generally known for their great colors, but sometimes pulling the color out can make the photo a better one. Focus on lines and shadows while you’re shooting the sunset, in addition to the other black and white photography tips.

Into The Sea

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Post your own sunset tips and photos in the comments! I’d love to see some tip/photo combos down in the comments. You can use the “img” hmtl tag to display images or click on the link below the comment box if you’re unfamiliar with html (please limit the photos to 500px or smaller). After the comments slow down, I’ll pick out some reader tips and photos for a follow-up post!

[UPDATE]: I’ve posted a follow-up article on this topic highlighting all the great sunset photos and tips from the readers — check it out! Definitely worth the read!

Darkness Creeps In

Darkness Creeps In

Brian Auer | 06/29/2008 | Huntington Beach, CA | 135mm * f/2.8 * 1/?s * ISO50
[Purchase Prints] [See it at Flickr]

This photo was taken while I was hanging out with a few friends one afternoon at Huntington Beach. It was kind of a last minute “whatcha doin this weekend” sort of thing. Bryan Villarin (F/B/T), Arnold (F/T), Jason Stone (F/B/T), John Watson (F/B/T), my son Rex (F), and I (F/B/T) were all there to grab some shots of the beach and pier while we waited for the sunset to see if anything exciting would happen (you can see them all in this Polaroid I took).

The Guys at Huntington Beach

Just as we were finishing up dinner, the sunset was approaching so we zoomed back over to the beach to grab some shots. I only had film cameras with me that day (4 of them), and I had been shooting black and white with my SLR and TLR. I still had about 10 shots on the roll in the SLR, so I finished that one off and quickly loaded a roll of Velvia 50 with the intent of cross processing. I got about half way through the roll before the sun was gone. If I had decided to swap out the roll in my TLR, I probably would have missed it altogether.

I took the Velvia with me solely for the purpose of shooting the sunset and cross processing it. I assumed that the Velvia 50 would turn out the same as the Velvia 100 when cross processed, so I was expecting to get some serious red/magenta shifts on the already red/orange sunset. Instead, I got a blue/green shift similar to what I’ve seen with Ektachrome. I’m not at all disappointed with the results… it’s just not what I had expected.

And on top of all that, I got this really neat photo that ended up with a heavy vignette/underexposure on the right side of the frame. Very cool results all around. This is one of the reasons I’m attracted to film — sometimes the results are completely unpredictable, but better than you had expected.


  1. Take exposed film out of camera
  2. Give film to camera store and say “Cross process, please. No prints and no cuts.”
  3. Go outside and take photos for 15 minutes
  4. Go back to the store and pick up film
  5. Take film home and scan
  6. Post photo on the Internet

Yup, seriously… no digital post processing other than maybe some dust removal. Sometimes I also adjust the white balance on my cross processed stuff to remove most of the color cast, but I left this one alone.