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6 Simple Tips for Stunning Sunrises and Sunsets

At this time of the year, two of the things we love are the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Here are a few tips to help you get better shots.

1. Gather the Proper Gear
Tripod. Sunrises and sunsets are low-light situations, so you want a steady base for your camera.
A wide angle lens is usually best to capture a more vast, sweeping portion of the scene. A zoom lens will let you experiment with the focal length and composition.
An ND grad filter to darken the scene and allow for longer shutter speeds, or to control the light in part of the scene.

2. Camera settings
For landscapes a smaller aperture such as f/8, f/11 or even higher will maximize the depth of field and generally capture a sharper image. A tripod will help here.
You could use your camera in full manual and expose 2-stops under to avoid over-exposing the sunlight. Or you can shoot in aperture priority mode (A/Av) which lets you lock in the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. Then you can adjust your cameras exposure compensation to fine tune the exposure and shoot the scene slightly under-exposed.
Use a low ISO such as 100 or 200, to ensure there isn’t a lot of grain or noise. A tripod will help here.

3. Compose with the Rule of Thirds.
This is a rule you can break and still have a stunning image. But following this rule will add interest and a bit of drama to your image. Rather than composing the horizon exactly in the middle of the photo, visualize two horizontal lines across your viewfinder (if your camera doesn't display a grid) and see which line the horizon looks best sitting on. Now look over the scene; what part is the most dramatic? Which part will you not focus on?
If you have a dark, cloudy sky that accentuates the sunlight, let that fill the top 2/3 of the scene. If you have an interesting foreground or landscape below the sun, let that fill the bottom 2/3 of the image. Use your camera's  inbuilt or your imaginary grid to place the sun, or other subjects on the points where the vertical lines meet the horizontal.

The idea is to draw the viewer into the horizon, and then let their eyes drift to the most dramatic part of the image.

4. Straighten up
Speaking of horizons, make sure it's straight! This is another reason why a tripod is so useful, you can set your camera angle to have the horizon straight, and keep it steady as you compose by small movements of the tripod head. Use the tripods bubble level if the head has one, or you may even have a level display in your camera.

5. Stick around a bit longer

After the sun drops below the horizon, the entire dynamic of a scene changes. Tones, colours and hues in the sky become more saturated and dramatic. Light will be low so you need to compensate by adjusting your exposure settings, but some of the most beautiful images can be shot right after the sun leaves the sky. The same can be said for the minutes before sunrise.

6. Experiment with your point of interest
One of the best ways to add mood and context to a picture is to try to include a silhouette into your shot. This could be something large like a mountain range or the Mount, a jetty, or the boats in our harbour, bays and estuaries. It could even be a person. 

Use flash or another light source to take a portrait in front of a sunset. Highlight the peaks on the early morning surf being hit by the sun. Are there dawn surfers you can capture? Even slow the shutter speed to get their movement. The more you experiment, the more you'll love this time of the day!

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