Over the past month, I have been working to increase my portfolio of sunset shots. They seem to be a very popular and who doesn't like to look at a sunset. Most people take a sunset photo, possibly do a quick edit, and throw it on Facebook for the world to see. Unlike most of the photographers, I have taken time to plan. I plan on the location that I will shoot the sunset to give the best possible surroundings. I also have chosen a place that I can visit on a regular basis. This location has what every good sunset photo should contain, elements in nature. Idealy, you should try to avoid having man made items in the photo, but it is hard to find a location without something built by man in a city. Therefore, I use ultra wide angle lenses to minimize any man made objects that may be in the distance. In addition to working hard to avoid having man made objects in the scene, I have tried to make sure I always have water or something else interesting in the foreground. Since there are no mountains to be found in Nebraska, I will try to employ water in my sunsets for the foreseeable future.
One main thing that I have tried to do to differentiate my photos from everyone else's is long exposure photography. This requires use of filters to add to the length of time your camera shutter can stay open. Various filters provide different lengths of time which you can use to your advantage. Most neutral density filters come in three, six, and ten stops. A circular polarizer will provide you two additional stops, but are not great for shooting with wide angles. I try to use a larger stop filter at the beginning of the sunset and then switch to a middle of the road stop filter as the sky gets darker. An example of why I do this would be if your exposure was metered at having a 1/60th of a second shutter, stick a ten stop neutral density filter on the lens of your camera and you can now use a shutter speed of 16 seconds. This get a little tricky as the sun is going down because you have to extend your exposure time every picture and guessing what your exposure would be is challenging without a light meter. The risks you take and the time you invest are definitely worth the rewards if you nail your exposure and your subject is appealing.
Photographing sunsets is a very peaceful experience when shooting long exposures. Regular shooting, you are snapping away always looking for the right picture. Long exposures, you must plan ahead since you are going to be sitting there awhile. The part I enjoy the most is after the shutter button is pushed and you get to sit and listen to nature as your minutes pass.