It might seem strange to be out on the beach at night with your camera but you can get some interesting pictures so delay the visit to the pub for a little longer and do some night-time coastal photography once you have your sunsets in the bag.
Photo by David Clapp
When To Shoot
The usual thinking for low light work is to shoot while there is still some colour in the sky and this helps avoid those stark black backgrounds. This is definitely good advice and helps you avoid pictures with too much light pollution, which comes out a yucky yellow and can look horrible. But after you've got your sunset shots, stay out after the twilight hour and continue shooting to even later.
You can try this photography at any time of the year, however you may prefer to wait until later in the year when the sunset isn't as late so you don't have to stay out for as long or late.
What To Shoot
As the sun sets, try shooting silhouettes or if the sky is particularly impressive, make this your focus. Later on, what you shoot is dependent on where you are. If you are at a traditional seaside resort with some nightlife there may be a pier and amusements that are worth shooting. On night's that are clear and the moon is full, try shooting some seascapes decorated in moonlight.
The colours you get with different artificial lamps can vary, and you can get orange or green colour casts depending on the light type. Leave the camera in auto white balance and see how it copes with the light source. If you do not like the look of the results, try setting the colour temperature manually. To be honest, though, do not worry too much about weird colour casts because they can embellish the moodiness of the scene.
You could introduce your own light to close-by subjects thanks to flashguns. The flashgun on the camera hot-shoe will work fine for many scenes but beware of glare off glossy surfaces.
Another way is to have the camera on the tripod, open the shutter on a long exposure setting of a few seconds or use the Bulb setting with a remote release to keep the shutter open while you fire the flash several times to light up foreground features. If you're working on the sand do make sure your tripod is balanced and secure. This painting with light technique is fun and will need several attempts to perfect so don't expect to get it right straight away. When trying this technique, do not stand between the subject and the camera and fire the flash because your ghostly image will show.
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