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Top Sunrise & Sunset Photography Tips: How, Where, When & With What Kit?

Sunrise and sunset are two events that you can always rely on to happen every day, so why not head out and photograph them? Here we've created a comprehensive guide to photographing sunrise and sunset as well as some kit suggestions.

|  Landscape and Travel
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sunrise

 

Photographing the sunrise and sunset has to be pretty high on any landscape photographer's list. Now, as the UK is in lockdown, it's one of the constant events in life that we can always rely on happening, no matter what.

This time of year, the spring, is a great time to shoot both sunrise and sunset. At the time of writing, the sun is rising at just before 6am. Shooting the sunrise would be a perfect opportunity to head to a local viewpoint and take some photos while there's no-one else around.

It's setting at about 8.15pm, so if you're more of a night owl than an early riser, why not save your daily exercise for after your tea and walk to a viewpoint in an evening – again, there should be less footfall at this time.

Obviously, you can head out and shoot at any time of year - if you're not much of an early riser then winter is a great opportunity to photogaph sunset. 

Of course if you're lucky enough to live somewhere that gives you a view of the sun rising or setting without leaving your garden, amazing! You won't have to walk far to set your kit up.

 

Sunrise and Sunset Photography - The Basics 

Whether you're setting your alarm and heading out early or taking a stroll in the evening, be sure you run through these basics before you leave:

  • Make sure your camera battery is charged
  • Check your memory card has space
  • Have your camera bag packed and ready
  • Do your research on best local viewpoints – make a mental or physical note of good spots to stop on your daily walk
  • Check a weather app to plan your day according to the weather and see exact sunrise and sunset times for the day
  • Wrap up – heading out early can mean it's really chilly, even though it might be pleasantly warm in the day

 

 

The Kit you'll Find Useful For Sunset/Sunrise Photography 

You can just go it alone with your camera and capture some great photos, but if you want to enhance your shooting experience, there are some items that will help:

 

1. Tripod

tripod sunrise sunset

 

As the sunrise or sunset will be in a fairly fixed direction, it can be helpful to set your kit up on a tripod so you don't lose the ideal framing if you're staying in the same spot for a while. This will give you the opportunity to shoot several photos as the sun moves up or down (or rather the earth do the moving, but you know what we mean!) and then see which is the best after the fact

As we've mentioned there's no fast action to consider for this one, so a tripod with a basic swivel or triple-axis head will be fine.

If you don't already have one, have a look online – they can be easily sourced and you can get one that will do the job for under £30, depending on your requirements. Some even come with a remote trigger, minimising the chances of camera shake caused by pressing the shutter manually.

If using a smartphone, you could consider a panoramic head, for a completely smooth and level pano result.

 Buy tripods on Amazon UK    Buy Tripods on Amazon USA

 

2. Monopod

monopod

If you don't want to carry a full tripod but would welcome some support for the camera when at your location then a monopod might be the answer. You can use it to set the height of your shot, then use the camera's built-in levelling system to make sure there are no wonky horizons.

It's also a lot easier to move a monopod around with the camera mounted than a tripod, if there are a few different angles or foreground interest items that you want to include.

Tripods are available with detaching monopod legs, if you want versatility to be able to use both.

Monopods can be picked up for as little as £15.

Buy monopods on Amazon UK    Buy monopods on Amazon USA

 

3. ND Grad Filter

ND grad kit

 

 

If you don't want a completely silhouetted landscape (more on this below) then an ND grad will come in handy.

Basically, if you use an ND grad, the top of the filter is stronger then the bottom, meaning that less light from the brightness of the sun enters the sensor, balancing out the light on the landscape.

You can get hard or soft grads, a soft grad has a gradual change from stronger to weaker filtration, whereas the hard grad is a sharp change from one to the other. Which you choose will depend on the landscape:

  • Is it flat grassland? If so, a hard grad might be better.
  • Does the land undulate, are there trees and rocks making an uneven horizon? A soft grad might suit.

You need to know the diameter of the lens you're using in order to buy a filter that fits, or invest in a system kit. ePHOTOzine's A-Z guide to filters should help you out if you need further assistance with choosing and using filters.

Buy filters on Amazon UK    Buy Filters on Amazon USA 

 

4. Reflector 

reflector kit

Sometimes, if light levels on the landscape are dropping but you want to make use of some interesting foreground in your shot, using a reflector to bounce light back onto the subject could be the answer.

You can get different coloured reflectors but a gold one should help emphasise the warm tones the sun will give.

Buy reflectors on Amazon UK    Buy reflectors on Amazon USA

 

 

Where To Visit? UK Locations For The Best Sunsets & Sunrises 

There are a lot of places on the east and west coasts throughout the UK that make fantastic locations for epic sunrise and sunset photography. You might be lucky enough to live near one of them, or even in one of them!

If not, don't despair – when lockdown is lifted you can visit them. Note down the ones that are of interest:

 

What To Photography At Sunset/Sunrise? 

 

1. Silhouettes

Windmill silhouette

 

When your camera focuses on the bright sun, it will compensate by throwing the landscape into darkness and silhouetting elements that rise out of it.

This can look very striking if you choose to shoot the sunset looking through something, like branches of a tree or long grasses. On holiday, palm trees can look great in a silhouette as can the city skyline.

We have a few tutorials onsite fully explaining how to shoot silhouettes and giving you hints and advice:

 

2. Flare 

flare example

 

Lens flare can present itself when shooting at certain angles to the sun. While it can be seen as a nuisance, it does have some artistic merit and can be used to your advantage in photos.

Lenses these days have special coatings to try and prevent flare, and modern cameras are so clever that they will try to compensate to get rid of it. So you might find that you have to work in manual mode and experiment a little to achieve it, but the effect should be worthwhile.

Here are some tutorials to help you out:

 

3. The Blue Hour

blue hour

 

Once the sun has gone down, don't pack up immediately as the period that follows can yield some amazing photos as well. The same goes for sunrise – get there early and you'll experience blue hour before the sun peeks its head over the horizon.

Blue hour is the time between night and day when the world starts waking up or going to sleep – if the weather is clear you'll get some lovely indigo colours as darkness lifts or begins to descend. It's also known as Twilight (no, not the books about vampires!). Violets and pinks might appear on the horizon making for some very pretty images.

This is one subject that a tripod might benefit you for, as less light will mean slower shutter speeds for your captures. ePHOTOzine looks at this in more detail here: 5 Top tips on twilight photography

 

Safety First!

Beginning your shoot before the sun rises or travelling home after it's setting poses some risks – make sure you know the route well to avoid any large roots or rocks that could catch you out. It's a good idea to take a head torch or a torch of some kind, and if heading out on your own, let someone know where you're going.

When it's hot, make sure you take a hat and wear protective gear. And the most important thing – NEVER look directly into the sun while it's fully up! Use the camera live view screen and shade your eyes wherever possible.

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