Sunrise, sunset and Getting the Shot

Joe Farace Photography

Joe Farace PhotographyGuest post by Joe Farace

Nothing says sunset like a photograph of the sun setting slowing in the West, and this image of the beach at Acapulco benefited from using the Leica D-Lux’s Sunset scene mode. The camera automatically determined exposure was 1/500 sec at f/4 and ISO 80.

Sunsets and sunrises are notoriously difficult to shoot because you have lots of dark areas and a brilliant light source within the frame. One of the easiest (maybe the easiest) ways of handling this kind of tricky shot is by using your camera’s Sunset Scene Mode if it has one. Using this mode sets up the camera to deal with these unique circumstances and produces the beautiful color that you actually see but can be difficult to capture in a photograph.

If your camera doesn’t have a Sunset mode you can always use the time-honored custom of bracketing. Pianists practice their scales; photographers need to practice exposure. Sometime the best solution is to shoot a series of exposures of your subject varying exposures from what would normally be considered underexposure to overexposure. Some cameras even offer an automatic bracket option. Consult your camera manual for details on how the automatic bracketing feature works on you specific camera.

Tip: Depending on how large this example photo looks on your screen, you may be able to see the ant-like people (as silhouettes) walking on the beach, but it’s always a good idea to have some foreground interest in sunset scenes such as this one.

Visit Joe Farace at his blog “Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time” (


Jones Pass Colorado

Bright as Day, Stars at Night!

As summer starts to come to a close, the days of hiking and camping get colder and less likely due to weather.  I am hoping to get back out a few more times before things turn too chilly, especially to capture the fall foliage in all it’s grandeur.  This past weekend though, a group of us went out to Jones Pass in the mountains here with the idea of getting some sunset, moonrise, and star trail shots.

The thing with sunsets and star trails is that they need conflicting environments to really work.  Sunsets work best with clouds to catch the colors of the sky as the sun drops behind the horizon.  Star trails, on the other hand, need clear skies to really work…otherwise you get these streaky clouds that can often just become a globulus mess.

So, when we went out to Jones Pass, I wasn’t sure which to wish for.  The group had about ten people and ironically, split about 50-50 between guys and gals.  The gals ended up staying at a lower elevation for some fields, fences, and the like for sunset, while the guys went further up.  Where we ended up the sunset was pretty cool, and after some decent shooting, headed back down to meet with the ladies for some beer  beverages, cheese, crackers, chips and salsa while waiting for the moon to rise.

Of course, the moon rising meant star trails were unlikely as well, so when we had clouds for both sunset and moonrise, it turned out to be a good thing all around.  While some left early due to the cloud cover, a few of us remained to see how things shook down, and it was good that we did.  The heavy clouds broke into small patches that the moon would peak through.  With the pine trees in the foreground, it made for some pretty interesting compositions.  These are tricky to expose correctly, so you really do need to just get out and experiment, as I found success (and failure) with a number of different settings.

Here’s a few of my keepers from the excursion:

Blurring water

Meandering Stream

High Elevation Sunset

Moon and Clouds

Bright as Day, Stars at Night!

The educational takeaway from this post was a good one too:  when a shoot takes you down an unexpected turn, the best thing isn’t necessarily to walk away and shoot another day, it could be to change your game plan.  Star trails clearly were not gonna happen, but that didn’t mean there weren’t opportunities for photos…we just changed our goal, and it worked!

Like the shots?  Share your thoughts?  Got your own plans for the end of summer heading into autumn?  Feel free to share plans and ideas there as well.  In the meantime, keep on shooting and we’ll see you back here next time!  Have a great week!


Stars through the Trees

Many a photo has been taken with either intentional or unintentional effect of creating a starry appearance in the lights.  Whether it’s a setting sun, a street lamp post, or any other light source (I’ve seen Christmas tree’s with stars everywhere), the star effect is so popular that there are even filters made to help produce this effect.  The easiest way to create it though, is to drop your aperture down (or up) to f16!  The result of adjusting your aperture so small is the equivalent of squinting your eyes.

Another added benefit of using the aperture instead of a layer of glass is the optical quality of your images is retained instead of losing sharpness, or even adding distortion on the edges of your shots.  Someone once said to me “Why would you add a $20 filter to the end of a $500 lens?”  At that point, I decided never to add cheap filters in order to produce a desired effect, and the star effect is a great example of this scenario.

Here’s a few sample shots I took with the Sigma 85mm f1.2 lens recently where dialing things down produced this star effect:

Stars through the Trees

Starry Sunset

By comparison, take a look at a shot of the same sunset, but without the star effect.  Sure, it’s a nice shot too (I like the branches in the upper part that bring a sense of balance to the image), but the missing star effect makes it somehow less magical for me.  What about you?  Do you like the magical stars from shooting at f16?  Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on shooting at f16 for stars, or any other photo tips you’d care to share.  Have a great weekend, happy shooting and we’ll see you back here on Monday!

Non-Starry Sunset