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Sunset over the Gulf

By photobuff36
I took this picture while my wife and I were on a sunset cruise on the Gulf of Mexico. Feel free to leave comments.

Tags: Sunset Water Ocean Gulf Landscape and travel Gulf of mexico

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pamelajean Plus
15 1.5k 2201 United Kingdom
30 Nov 2020 4:18PM
Hello, Levi, and welcome to EPZ's Critique Gallery. You've been with us a while but I think this is your first visit to the CG. You arrived here because you checked the "Critique Wanted" option. I assume that was your intention .This is where we do our best to provide constructive feedback, and along the way, help you improve.

It helps us if you respond to critique and indicate which ideas you found helpful. That means we can tailor advice according to your needs and abilities. We like this to be an interactive area of the site.

My immediate thoughts were:-
The sun is almost in the centre of your frame.
The little boat on the horizon is too small to be of any significance.
The image is divided into almost two halves, sea and sky.

Here you have the sun as the main point of focus, which isn't always a good idea. It is too bright and has a golden halo. Whenever possible, try to shoot a sunset after the sun has gone below the horizon, when the sky can be spectacular without it, or set something in front of it, such as a tree. Without the sun inside your frame, your exposure will be better.

Unless they are spectacular, most sunsets are best treated as backgrounds to a strong foreground subject or silhouette, suitably placed, to act as a focal point for the composition. You may say that there was nothing in the foreground for me to photograph, and that's where a bit of planning comes into play. Arrive at your chosen place early and find something in your foreground before that sunset begins. There will be a lot of disappointment, but you will be rewarded in the end.
While sometimes wonderful sunset shots can be taken spontaneously without any forethought, it’s often the case that the best ones come out of planning.

Offsetting the sun makes an image far more appealing. Also, offsetting any other focal point has the same effect. The middle of the frame isn't the best place to put them.

With the same idea in mind, try to place your horizon one third up or one third down in the frame, rather than 50-50. Decide if it's the sky or the sea that is of most interest and give the best one more space.

If you do decide to do some serious planning, try for a bit of cloud because it's often the clouds that make a spectacular show, and you can also use them to hide the sun without having to wait for it to move below the horizon. You will have seen some sun-behind-cloud pictures with lovely rays emanating from them.

Do a search for sunsets on the site, in the main Photo Gallery, and decide on the type of thing you like about them, and what holds your attention most.

HERE is a good article on EPZ, one of many.

I am sorry that most of this was negative, but that's the only way to learn. Try coming out of programme mode and taking control of your settings. Aperture Priority is a good start.

I hope you and your wife enjoyed the cruise and brought back lots of photographic memories.
I look forward to seeing more of your pictures.


dark_lord Plus
16 2.7k 749 England
30 Nov 2020 4:48PM
Welcome from me too.

I'm sure this brings back memories for you, but as a third party looking at this who has no connection it's just the sun low in the sky and I can't say anything more than Pamela has described. You had the smells and sounds of the sea, looking forward to or having had a fine evening meal, not to mention the company of your wife.

And that gives me one suggestion, she can be the missing element here. OK, if you're on board a ship you're limited to viewpoints, but even a head and shoulders silhouette with this sunset as a backdrop would really personalise it for you as well as making it appeal to others. A human element makes a big difference.

However, talking of backdrops, it's worht keeping this for possible use in a composite image in the future, for example with a silhouette of a boat.
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.6k 2372 United Kingdom
30 Nov 2020 6:26PM
A warm welcome from me too, I hope you will find the Critique Gallery useful.

First of all, the primary reason for this sort of image is to preserve your own memories, and I suspect that it works very well in that respect.

The question on a site like this though, where you are sharing images with strangers, is how you convey the experience to strangers who were not there, who are viewing a small 2-D rectangle on a screen. That's a very different matter...

It's a minimalist subject, just four components - the horizon, the sun, the clouds and the little boat. The main thing I think is to consider how you fit them into the frame, how they relate to each other.

The sun is almost centrally placed, but not quite - that's unsatisfactory, it leaves loose ends. Central placement creates a bold statement, off-centre is more enigmatic, and more inviting. This falls between the two...

The other consideration is focal length. Using your lens at full length would have brought the little boat forward, made it more important.

I've uploaded two modifications, you'll find them under the blue Modifications button below your upload. Two crops, trying to move in closer, create a route for the eye to explore. I kept a 50/50 horizon split, there are alternatives. I prefer the square crop, where the sun is on the upper right third.

I added 1/3 stop exposure and made a few further tweaks to light, to try to get a better sense of clarity. You sensibly used a plus exposure compensation, photographing into the light, but it needed a wee bit more.

I wonder if you took any shots immediately after the sun went down? Or any with details of the ship superstructure silhouetted in the foreground?

These are just suggestions, see what you think.
Hey Guys, Thanks for all the help you've given me!
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1807 England
1 Dec 2020 10:10AM
And welcome from me, too.

There's not a lot left to say, but I'll add one comment on focus, which was, I suspect, set at or close to infinity.

This has left the waves closer to the camera unsharp, and if you had focussed a little closer, everything could have been equally sharp, more or less. Look up a technique called hyperfocal focussing for a full explanation of how. As to why, it's simply that it might make the picture closer to what you perceived when you shot it. A lot of the technical side of photography is about controlling the camera to ensure that the picture conveys the look that your eyes perceived when you took the shot. That can be in terms of colour, sharpness, or indeed a sense of 'being there'.

That links to Moira's point about moving from Program mode.

A big plus point - with the superzoom you were using, you used a telephoto setting, so that you made the sun and boat larger in the frame. A common error is to use the widest setting possible, leading to a bland frame with little real detail as subject.

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