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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> How do I get that killer sunset pic?
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03/10/2007 09:41:06 AM · #1
Hi all,

I´m hoping to get some rather quick advice (if possible by 3pm eastern time today (Sat.) on how to get the best out of this absolutely beautiful east/west oriented beach in El Salvador I´ll be visiting until Monday. The sunrises are nice, and the sunsets are beautiful. I was there a few days ago, and managed to get a few nice shots - but I´m looking for better.

What I´ve found (and this is what confuses me) is that the smaller the aperature, the less sharp the whole image gets. What I was going for initially was the difraction of the sun right as it´s going down over the horizon. At smaller aperatures (around f/25ish), I´m able to get a nice star effect out of the sun, but the rest of the pic (clouds, palm trees, etc) end up quite blurry despite the relatively quick shutter speed (MAX 1s from what I remember). Of course, when I open up the aperature, the opposite happens - a nice sharp image but not so much the nicest sun.

AND SO - I´m looking for some advice on how to maximize my next couple of days at Playa El Zonte, El Salvador. Is it possible with my ordinary lens to achieve a sharp image, difracted sun, no lens glare, and an all-round nice image all at once?

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot!!
03/10/2007 09:48:14 AM · #2
Are you using a tripod? If not, balance the camera on a wall or similar and use the self-timer. I have generally had most success with an apeture of around f16. I would suggest shooting in RAW, and also setting your exposure at perhaps 2/3rds less than you camera's evaluative metering.
03/10/2007 09:53:01 AM · #3
On sunset pictures I usually set the camera to AV and adjust the f/stop. I have found that f/4 -f/11 is the best (in my case). F/4 to f/11 is the sweet spot of my lens. I find that f/2.8 and very small aperture of f/22 and above does not prove any better than f/4 -f/11 when taking a picture long range.

That's just me. Judging by your profile, you do a great job as is.

Wish you well.
SDW
03/10/2007 10:09:32 AM · #4
What you've run into is called diffraction. You can read more about it here. Basically, I think you'll find that anything from f/16 and beyond will start to get soft. Which may be good or bad depending on the look you are going for. For most normal shots, you'll probably want to limit your f/stop to about f/13 and below.

03/10/2007 10:18:39 AM · #5
May I suggest you park it on a tripod and take three shots in the mid aperture range? (say 5.6 to 8)

... One at EV -1 one at EV-2 and one at EV -3 ...

... and merging them into an HDR image to really have hands on the dynamic range?
03/10/2007 10:23:19 AM · #6
I agree with everything that has been said so far. Basically, when I am shooting a sunset, I meter in the camera on auto, then I switch to manual and stop it down a few increments. And I absolutely agree and usually keep my aperature at f11 or below. Depending on how dark it's getting, I also experiment with different ISO. Usually 400 works best, but 200 can be nice too.
Here is my MySunsetGallery
03/10/2007 10:33:05 AM · #7
Originally posted by tiggermo:

I agree with everything that has been said so far. Basically, when I am shooting a sunset, I meter in the camera on auto, then I switch to manual and stop it down a few increments. And I absolutely agree and usually keep my aperature at f11 or below. Depending on how dark it's getting, I also experiment with different ISO. Usually 400 works best, but 200 can be nice too.
Here is my MySunsetGallery


Lord luv a DUCK, tiggermo ... a few of the images in your sunset portfolio took my breath away ... thanks for sharing ...
03/10/2007 11:51:06 AM · #8
Originally posted by Greetmir:

Originally posted by tiggermo:

I agree with everything that has been said so far. Basically, when I am shooting a sunset, I meter in the camera on auto, then I switch to manual and stop it down a few increments. And I absolutely agree and usually keep my aperature at f11 or below. Depending on how dark it's getting, I also experiment with different ISO. Usually 400 works best, but 200 can be nice too.
Here is my MySunsetGallery


Lord luv a DUCK, tiggermo ... a few of the images in your sunset portfolio took my breath away ... thanks for sharing ...


well, I'm not sure about duck lovin, but those are some dang good sunsets.
03/10/2007 11:51:30 AM · #9
i am assuming you are shotting with a wider angle lens in which case the depth of field should be pretty deep even at a larger aperture.

factor in infinity focusing/hyperfocal distance and you should be able to get a deep sharp image at f:8 or f:11

Message edited by author 2007-03-10 11:51:50.
03/10/2007 12:13:32 PM · #10
The making of a "killer" sunset/sunrise depends more on the conditions at the time than on any camera presets you might consider. Each is unique and requires its own settings to make it look best.

It is even a little harder than you might think. The best color comes only when the sky is clear below the horizon where you can't see. That is the only way the underside of clouds can be illuminated to get the great warm tones and reds.

There are a couple techniques for sunrise/sunsets I've been dying to try for a challenge sometime using the new "expert" ruleset. One is HDR and the other is multi-imaged panoramas.

Sunrise/sunsets are good for HDR because they have a high dynamic range. In order to capture its full effect this technique would work well. Unlike most HDR images we see here at DPC, this is truly one of the situations Mother Nature has tailor made for HDR.

Sunrise/sunsets are good for multi-imaged panoramas simply because of their typical narrow band of lighting. But you want to be setup on your tripod and mapped out all your shots before the sunrise/sunset reaches its peak. You also want to take the pictures as rapidly as possible because sunrise/sunset lighting changes very, very rapidly... a few seconds can make a big difference. It is best if you practice panoramas BEFORE you try a sunset/sunrise!
03/10/2007 12:15:36 PM · #11
I wonder if most of the posters here missed that the "reason" you went with such a small aperture was to get the "star effect" on the sun?

Anyway, my suggestion would be to put the camera on a tripod and take two pictures, one with the very small aperture and another at f/11, then combine the two in photoshop (really, all you need to copy across are the edge effects on point light sources).

Message edited by author 2007-03-10 12:18:04.
03/10/2007 12:23:26 PM · #12
you could also use a star filter which makes light sources have the star effect. I am not positive it would work on the sun but seems like it should.
03/10/2007 12:52:46 PM · #13
AWESOME!!! Thanks a lot everyone for their input and their suggestions!!!

And tiggermo, that´s a beautiful sunset gallery!

@soup - I am indeed shooting with my 18-125.. generally at the wider angles. But I don´t understand what you mean by factoring in infinity focusing/hyperfocal distance?

I´ve still got a couple hours before I head back down to the coast - and I should make it there before sunset.. which should leave me 2 days to try and get my killer shot.

Oh yeah, and I´ll definitely be trying some HDR - it´s been a while that I´ve been wanting to test it out.

Once again, thanks!
03/10/2007 01:09:11 PM · #14
Good hunting, Damian!
03/10/2007 01:09:47 PM · #15
Originally posted by Dudski:

But I don´t understand what you mean by factoring in infinity focusing/hyperfocal distance?


I may be wrong but some lenses go past infinity which means if you manually focus (which may be the case if it is dark) you don't turn it all the way.
03/10/2007 01:10:28 PM · #16
To answer your question about hyperfocal distance: What is hyperfocal distance?

And here's an Online Depth of Field Calculator that you can use to play around with different distances, focal lengths and apertures to get a feel for how much depth of field you get with each.

Message edited by author 2007-03-10 13:10:54.
03/10/2007 01:17:19 PM · #17
If you can select color saturation on camera you may want to turn that up a notch, shoot under the camera selected ev at - 1/2 to -2, and the tripod suggestion is a good one too. Since you are at a beach, if you don't have a tripod handy, you may want to get a zip lock bag or balloon and fill it with sand to steady the camera on anything solid.
I like f 8 for sunsets, unless I want to unfocus the foreground, then f 4 or 2.8. A polarizer will have an effect as well, on the clouds, even after sunset.
The best colors often happen 15 to 25 minutes after the actual sunset. Try to stay and shoot until it is completely over.
03/10/2007 02:20:36 PM · #18
Wow...thanks you guys for the great comments on my sunsets. That actually feels good to hear since my challenge images don't seem to do very well. The voters are sooooo critical!

Dudski, I hope you will post your sunsets when you get done with them. I'm sure now we're all anxious to see what you come up with!
03/10/2007 02:30:49 PM · #19
Originally posted by tiggermo:

Wow...thanks you guys for the great comments on my sunsets. That actually feels good to hear since my challenge images don't seem to do very well. The voters are sooooo critical!

Dudski, I hope you will post your sunsets when you get done with them. I'm sure now we're all anxious to see what you come up with!


I think I may have pumped the well dry as far as high votes willingly given to sunsets/sunrises a while ago, I ran so many of the danged things. So blame the scoring on me :-) You have some very nice shots there.

R.

Oh, DUDSKI: I been busy cooking an elaborate feast for company and got here too late to add anything to what's already been said. But take it from an addicted sunset shooter, it's all good advice. ESPECIALLY the "don't stop down" bit. The wider angle your lens, the more you lose to diffraction at small f/stops.

This is because the diffraction is a function of the PHYSICAL SIZE of the aperture, not the f/stop. The f/stop is a RATIO between the focal length of the lens and the diameter of the aperture. So on a 50mm lens a 25mm aperture is f/2.0, whereas on a 200mm lens a 25mm aperture would be f/8.0.

Wjhat this means is that with telephoto lenses you can easily stop down t f/16 or f/22 without diffraction issues, but on an extreme WA lens (like my 10-22mm) set as wide as they can go, f/8 (or maybe f/11) is the practical limit. Still, on the plus side, they have a TON of DOF even at these middle apertures, so you don't NEED to stop down.

R.
03/10/2007 03:12:25 PM · #20
Alright, it´s go time! So just wanted to send out another thanks to all that replied (and thanks Bearmusic for the more technical explanation)!

I´ll hopefully be posting many many pictures - but unfortunaly only in August when I get back from my 7 month backpacking trip of Central and South America ;)

03/10/2007 05:41:59 PM · #21
If the diffraction pattern is a must for you, then use a CRS filter. These are available with anywhere from 4 to 8 diffraction points and will work as well on the sun as they do for other light sources.
03/10/2007 06:05:10 PM · #22
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

... ESPECIALLY the "don't stop down" bit....R.


can I ask a question without hijacking this thread? Is there a difference in stopping down the fstop and adjusting the EV meter down some?

I have been doing this instead of adjusting anything else cause it just seemed faster and easier but am I doing myself a dis-service? I used it in my current Best of Feb challenge:
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It seems to help me capture the colors while the sun is still rather high. Notice this is shot at f3.5 and shutter at 6.3 and most likly at 150mm or really close.

What would have changed if I'd just stopped down?

Thank you in advance for the help and dudski I can't wait to see those shots.

Message edited by author 2007-03-10 18:05:46.
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