View Full Version : Sunrise and sunsets

23-11-2009, 3:21pm
This is a very popular subject to photograph and it’s easy to understand why. In my truck driving days I use to love the sunrise; it’s usually different most mornings, but more importantly, I got through a long hard night in one piece, but it was so much better when there was some broken cloud for the sun to light up.

Sunnies, as I call them, are actually one of the easiest; or should be one of the easier photos to take, but there a couple of tricks and you don’t need any special cameras or filters, although a solid camera rest is important.

We will deal mainly with sunsets: The big mistake most make is they photograph too early and pack up to early


The better sunset photos will be taken because you just happen to be out there with the camera; but there things to look for that will tell there maybe a sunny that evening. Those wonderful colours happen because the sun is shining from below the horizon onto the underside of the cloud and broken high level cloud is the best for a colourful sunny.

If you are really keen, you will start to take more notice of weather reports and log onto the internet weather sites more often to check out the satellite maps. You will start to watch clouds and observe what they do. Most weather patterns travel west to east.

If you feel there is a sunny coming on you need to be set up 15-20 minutes before the sun set. Knowing where the sun will set is also helpful and it does not set at the same spot at same time every day of the year. Sunsets/rises move; and the further south you are the more they move.

The gear does not matter that much; a P+S will do; but as the best photos will be taken after sunset so a tripod or a solid camera rest will be required. I usually set the camera to manual and bracket most photos although AV will do with most DSLRs>>sometimes it helpful to set to manual focus>>I focus and then turn it off.

This is the big mistake: most take photos with the big bright sun in the photo>> IT USALLY DOES NOT WORK. The camera can not record what you see.


However; if the sun sets behind a medium to heavy cloud, there is a very good chance that the cloud will block the sun’s rays from getting onto the underside of the cloud, but don’t pack up; WAIT UNTIL IT IS DARK. I have seen it and I have done it; that is packing up to early; it all goes dark and gloomy as the sun sets below the horizon so everyone cries and packs up. But the sun has to get down further so the rays hit the under side of the clouds. SO WAIT.

And don’t just look to the west [that’s roughly where the sun sets]; look around and behind you also. There is often wonderful colour there also

Sunrises happen 10-15 minutes before the sun comes over the horizon, and generally after the sun comes over the horizon its all over.

And that is all there is to photograph a good colourful sunny; some luck; some planning and some patents.


I would hope others will add their tips for taking a better sunrise/set photo.

LOL the first image is one of the best sunest I have taken; but the folder disappeared from my hard drive. :( All I have is this very small file. Yeah I know; back up ya stuff ya mug :o

23-11-2009, 4:59pm
Thats a pretty good guide Ian. I might suggest also during the daylight hours, have a drive around, and suss out some good spots. Water bodies are always fantastic places for both sunrises and sunsets as the reflections and colours can be stunning. I also find places with trees, windmills, sheds and pretty much anything on tops of hills can provide a good silouhette. This time of the day is also good for general landscape shots as the golden light can turn things magical in an instance.

Biggest tip though, try and stay around ISO 100 or there abouts so as to limit the noise introduced into the picture.

Stunning shots too Ian BTW, love the last one with the water:th3:

old dog
23-11-2009, 5:12pm
great info Ian. Thanks for doing that. Hard to beat a great sunrise or set.

23-11-2009, 7:39pm
soooo many good ones here Ian, hard to choose ...seems like a hotel buffet table with too many goodies to eat! They are all lovely but I like the orange raddish ones with lots of clouds


25-11-2009, 5:01am
Thanks for that thoroughly helpful advice! :)
I often see the sunset just as I'm leaving work and wish I had my camera, but I think I need to suss out a good vantage point without lots of power poles in the way.

25-11-2009, 8:35am
Great info Ian, and I would like to add that sunset and sunrise photography can quite often benefit from using the Rule of Thirds. A good sunset/sunrise photo will generally have foreground interest as well. A shot of the sky and the tops of the trees, often is not as visually appealing as a shot that contains some terra firma, especially if that includes something that adds a nice leading line (fence, road, rocky outcrop into the sea, etc).

25-11-2009, 10:39am
Thankyou for this informative thread Ian, and thanks to the others who have added information as well.
These days we wait, and wait, but I am sure lots of people make the mistake of leaving a sunset too early, or getting to a sunrise too late.

It is such a shame you lost the folder with that first photo in, Ian. It is an incredible photo.

The main tip I have is to look around you, and look to the sky often. So often a "boring" sky will light up very briefly, and if you are not watching closely, you miss it. Through experience last winter we learned not to let a seemingly plain pre dawn sky and sub zero temps keep you from setting up the camera- we missed an absolutely STUNNING sunrise because we wimped out.... oh well, we won't do that again.
Please keep the tips coming.

Aus Mackem
28-06-2010, 6:04pm
I'm a sucker for a good sunrise/sunset so theres some really invaluable info there Ian. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

29-06-2010, 4:50pm
great write up... this is definately something i want to take mroe photos of...

29-06-2010, 5:39pm
Great info Ian. I usually check the weather for dusk/dawn set time then I plan to go to the nice location by an hour before the set time. I have time to find a good spot then settle down and get ready from the magic moment.

29-06-2010, 5:54pm
Great info Ian, very helpful. Some breath taking shots

29-06-2010, 6:25pm
Ian, I've found the best colours usually happen just after I've put the camera away! But that is a good guide.

29-06-2010, 6:33pm
Ian, thanks so much for sharing your expertise and great photos. 'sunnies' are one of my favourite things to photograph so i look forward to practising some of your tips.
Totally agree with the 10 to 15 mins thing too, amazing how quickly the sky can change from beautiful to amazing!

29-06-2010, 6:42pm
Good tips, Ian. Thanks for sharing. Great photos. I love sunset photography. Harder, or should I say, rarer for me to get the good sunrise shots!;)

08-07-2010, 3:53pm
the other day at sunset time there was a beautifully lit sky in the east, so i completely understand what you are saying about looking all around you

08-07-2010, 4:13pm
Thank you very much for this guide, it is much appreciated.

12-07-2010, 1:25pm
Thank you Ian for the post and thanks to all others who have commented. Some really usefull information.

29-12-2010, 5:24pm
first day here and first post i read. Thanks heaps for that. Instantly im seeing good tips that i know will benefit :)

awsome photos by the way.

31-12-2010, 5:02pm
fantastic photos and some really helpful advice. we've not long moved house so need to find some places to escape the toddler and set up for a while to see what i can come up with

20-10-2011, 12:33am
Nice guide there mate!

08-11-2011, 1:00am
Ditto to the above comments, well done. I live in a city in the north of China, and the sun disappears into the smog zone about 10 degrees above the horizon, and after that it's pretty well over - the pollution is too dense to allow much reflective bathing of clouds etc. There's a useful piece of software available for download known as 'The Photographer's Ephemeris' (http://photoephemeris.com/), will tell you sunrise & sunset & moon phases based on your location.

15-11-2011, 5:47pm
I love sunset photos, the pink, oranges, blues, etc that emit along the sky. I just love it :)

I'm never up early enough for a sunrise though hehe..

Thanks for the write up, I'm heading out after work to see what I can do! I've tried a few, but I have more time tonight than I usually do. yay!

10-12-2011, 2:36am
Fully endorse the tip to look around and behind you. I was down the beach last weekend to capture the sunset and turned 90 degrees and there was a storm forming. Shooting away from the sunset or with the light coming in from the side gave me my most satisfying shots of the day.

04-12-2012, 11:11am
Very Useful Info For Beginners , Love The Pics!

27-08-2014, 2:43pm
One thing that I would add to this Ian, is that research of the location can have a great deal to do with the success or failure of a shot. I spend a fair amount of time on research of an area that I am thinking of heading into prior to actually jumping in my old van and heading out. I might, for example, look up the location in Google maps or Google Earth to get an idea of the terrain and what else is in that area that might be worth a look. I will then head over to "The Photographers Ephemeris" to get an idea of sunrise, sunset, moon phases etc. I may also decide that if I have travelled to a spot that looks interesting and it is by the sea, I will check the tides ~ there is nothing worse than happily snapping away while the tide comes in and blocks off your escape rout, so beware of that trap ~ Having said that, I may decide that it is a nice night , and armed with insect repellent, I will spend the night catching star trails. Before I head out I will check another program called, "Stellarium" to get an idea of what the sky around me will look like in any given direction.

To give you an example of what I am talking about here. I have a location in mind that will be great for a sunrise AND sunset shot. It is by the ocean but how do I get both shots without sitting around contemplating my navel for the rest of the day. Nearby, is a rainforest and, after checking out the area, as I have described above, I have noticed that there is also a waterfall close by. Because this location is about 2 hours drive from my home, I have decided that I will take an easy drive up to the area and wander through the rainforest area during the day. In the afternoon I will head over to the area by the sea and scout around for the best location. I will take a few "location" shots and then settle in to wait for the sunset. If I don't decide to stay for the star shots, I will head back to my old Toyota van and set an alarm for 4am before getting a few hours sleep and waking up fresh to get the sunrise shots. ALWAYS remember though to have plenty of spare batteries for both your camera AND a good torch with you.

What I am trying to say here is, research your location and if your shots aren't what you expected the first, or even the seventh visit, the eighth could be that winning shot that you were after. ;)

12-09-2014, 3:49pm
Great post Ian and especially helpful to anyone starting out in landscape photography.

27-12-2014, 9:42pm
Useful guide, thanks