Jim Doty - Photo Blog

Photography: Photos, News, and Tips
Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Sunset at Sea. Photo copyright Jim Doty Jr.

Sunset at Sea. Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

There are several creative and technical choices involved when shooting a sunset over water.

The light was bright enough to eliminate the need for a tripod and a tripod isn't always useable when shooting from the deck of a ship anyway. On shore, I would have the camera on a tripod.

The sky was metered to the side of the sun without including the sun itself (which would have thrown off the look I was after). This rendered that part of the sky as medium toned with the sun much brighter than medium toned, the sky farther from the sun as darker than medium toned, and the ocean much darker. Metering the sky closer to the sun results in a darker photo. Metering the sun itself results in a very dark and dramatic photo. Metering the sky farther from the sun results in a lighter photo. Several exposures options will usually work with any given sunset. I bracketed exposures for a variety of looks. More information about exposure is in this article.

When considering compositon, I chose to center the sun in the frame from left to right, but placed it high in the frame from top to bottom. This gives more emphasis to the specular highlights of the sunlight rimming the edges of the swells in the water. The specular highlights run right down the center of the frame. I used a long enough lens focal length to isolate the sun and the light on the water and eliminate more of the ocean and the blue areas of the sky. I "bracketed" the composition of this scene by using different focal lengths and placing the sun in different locations in the frame. This is one of several variations that worked well.

Although the shutter speed was reasonably high, I still had IS (image stabilization) turned on which is almost always the case when I am shooting hand held without a tripod.

This photo was taken from the deck of the Norwegian Dawn, out in the Atlantic about 250 miles southeast of the South Carolina coast.

Data: Canon 5D, EF 24-105mm lens set at 105mm. Aperture: f/11, Shutter: 1/200, ISO: 100.


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