As a photographer there are few experiences more enjoyable than photographing a spectacular sunset. But there are two things I’ve observed in this regard that I’d like to share today, in hopes of helping you get get better sunset photos yourself.
Firstly, people tend to leave shortly after the sun goes over the horizon. This isn’t just a tourist phenomenon either – photographers with tripods and expensive gear will pack up shop as soon as it is no longer visible. The temptation make sense. After all, you came to see the sunset, so what’s left to see after the sun has, in fact, set? In short – lots! Known typically as the “magic hour,” the colors after sunset can fill the skies with amazing colors that you cannot get while the sun is visible. But if you leave as soon as the sun is gone, you’ll miss it.
The second observation, which is connected to the first, is the tendency to think cloudy skies means dull skies. This is a thought I’ve had many times myself, to be honest. But the reality is that clouds in the sky can make for a much more dramatic scene. The image below is a great example of this. The sky is filled with clouds, and it is thanks to those very clouds that this image was possible. The vibrant pink hues that almost seem to set the sky ablaze would be impossible in a cloudless sky.
Just look at those colors! It was incredible to see this in person. Now you might be wondering what allows for colors like this in the sky, and the answer is a lot of things. It’s a combination of the clouds in the sky, how high they are (notice the lower clouds on the left did not catch the color), what kind of air the sun’s rays are going through to the west, and what angle the sun’s rays are at. As you might imagine, this can be pretty hard to predict. But, if you pack up shop the second the sun is over the horizon or stay away from going out because of clouds, you’ll not only miss the chance to photograph it, but even the chance to experience it. To better illustrate this point, the shot below was taken about 5-10 minutes before the previous image, and just a couple of minutes after the actual sunset (which I was unable see at all due to the clouds).
What a difference a few minutes makes! You’ve got some interesting looking clouds here, but it’s nothing in comparison to what was about to happen in the skies. It’s important to note that usually the most vibrant colors in the clouds will only last a few minutes at best, so it’s good to think ahead in terms of composition and the like. You won’t have a lot of time to make meaningful changes.
Hopefully this has shown why it’s worth your while to wait around after sunset. Waiting even 10 minutes can be the difference between a dull image and one that leaves you awestruck every time you see it.
If you want to learn how I edited the image above, check out my Bamboo Forest Digital Workshop to learn all the techniques you’ll need to know to create your own works of art.