Every budding photographer wants to share the experience when they see something awesome. But how many times has your photo not quite measured up to the experience?

The Elusive Sunset

Marc Mantha's Photos of The Holland Marsh Sunsets at MAMAphotography.caAfter all these years of shooting, the sunset is still the most memorizing and challenging to capture. A digital camera (or film) just can’t cope with capturing the full range of light extremes of a sunset. Your eyes are amazing at processing dynamic range, but it’s still technically elusive much of the time.

The latest in digital SLRs have features that are advancing, but nothing near foolproof yet. The best bet is still multiple exposure blending.

Click the image below for a larger detailed view.

Marc’s Tip: “While in the marsh, if you see shotgun shells laying around, avoid practicing duck calls.”

Where were we? Oh yeah…

Getting Ready for your Sunset Shoot

The overall shoot lasted close to an hour. It’s about studying what’s happening, changing and adjusting as you go.

Most important is to arrive in advance of the setting sun so as not to rush getting things ready.

  • Get there earlier and walk around to select some vantage points
  • Look through the camera view finder while you scout to look for potential compositions (feel free to take some shots while you do this)
  • Set up your tripod, remote shutter release and check your camera settings (white balance, ISO, shooting mode, file format and set for multiple exposures – exposure bracketing)
  • Alternate between portrait and landscape orientations during your shoot
  • Move to various locations /positions, go back to the ones you think are working best
  • Alternate lenses if you have more than one that’s appropriate (I used the Canon 24-105mm and Sigma 12-24mm) my favorites for nature scenery

The Lenses for this Shoot (Great Quality and Optics)

  •  Ultra wide – Sigma 12-24mm for Canon (be sure to get the HSM II improved version)
  • Wide – 24-105mm Canon L Series

Multiple Exposure Blending

What is High Dynamic Range?

Photography relates to the light and how wide that range of light is. In midday when it’s very overcast with thick clouds, the dynamic range is narrow. Light in these conditions is sometimes referred to as “flat”. Cast shadows are soft. Your photos on day like this are less likely to have any solid white blow outs (over exposed) or solid black (under exposed) areas.

On a clear sunny day, that dynamic range is much wider and most often a problem. The sky is way too bright or the foreground way to dark and cast shadows are strong and dark.

A sunset in general shares those issues of the wider dynamic range. That’s when taking multiple exposures and using the best details from each exposure brings all of your scenes elements back into balance and better gives up all the gorgeous details you experienced. Some digital artist will blend multiple exposures in PhotoShop, other will use an HDR Tone Mapping application like Photomatix Pro and PhotoShop. There are many ways to do it. I tend to go the way of the HDR Tone Mapping route followed by PhotoShop.

What Do I Need to Shoot Multiple Exposures?

  • A tripod and remote shutter release
  • Set the Bracketed Exposure to about +2, 0, -2. My camera can go wider at +3, 0, -3 but I find it unnecessary.
  • Jpeg format is fine for exposure blending. Raw format will give you some additional “pre-processing” options.

Photographing sunsets are great for relaxing and putting your photographic know-how into practice. Dicsuss, share, ask questions…

MAMA Photography

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