Tag Archives: tips

Taking a Great Sunset Photo

Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Peter Baumgarten
. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images to enlarge.
 

I can’t resist a great sunrise or sunset. I’m a real sucker for those amazing colors at the bookends of the day. But the reality is that sunset shots are a dime a dozen. So how do you get yours to stand out from the rest of the crowd?

 
1. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE SUNSET

Gorgeous sunset colors are certainly appealing, but they are definitely not enough to maintain your viewer’s interest. Think of the sunset as the backdrop to your photograph. What you place in front of those colors is the important thing.

Good photographs don’t just happen. They are a combination of four things:

  • Planning
  • Composition
  • Camera Settings
  • Post-processing

2. THINK AHEAD

When you are ready to capture that amazing sunset, arrive early to the location you plan on shooting at. I usually try to get there at least an hour before the sun sets. This allows me ample time to:

  • Scout around for the ideal spot
  • Check out any points of interest I may want to include
  • Plan out a set of shots
  • Get my camera and tripod set up properly
  • Clean lenses and filters

 
3. AVOID DISTRACTIONS

One of the things that I love most about being a photographer is the power to control what other people see. As I compose my next shot I decide what to include in the frame and what to leave out. At times this is easier said than done, but if I can’t eliminate a distracting element I won’t take the shot. The worst distraction for me is power lines, but there can be many others – a parked car, people where you don’t want them, branches in the way, and the list goes on. Arriving early can give you the time to adjust your vantage point and hopefully eliminate these unwanted elements.

4. FRAMING YOUR SHOT

Including a natural frame in your image can add depth to the photograph and anchor your main subject. The examples below help illustrate ways of including a frame.

“GET CREATIVE. THE REFLECTION OF THE SUNRISE ON THIS WINDOW ADDS AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE AND A VERY DIFFERENT WAY TO FRAME THE SHOT.”

5. STEADY AS SHE GOES

Once the sun goes down it is time to pull out the tripod. You are now entering the territory of slower shutter speeds. My Olympus cameras have excellent image stabilization capabilities and can cope with being hand-held at speeds as slow as 1/2 second. I trust my camera to deliver good results hand held, but the real reason I use the tripod is to force me to slow down and focus on composition. That’s what really matters.

Of course some of the best colors occur 15 – 20 minutes after the sun has set when the sky has noticeably darkened. Now you might be using shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds or a minute. There is no camera that can be hand-held for that length of time. I also use a shutter release cable or if you have a wireless camera you can trigger your shot using your smart phone. This helps to avoid camera shake when you take the shot and ensures better clarity.

“ONCE THE SUN GOES DOWN IT IS TIME TO PULL OUT THE TRIPOD.”

6. LET’S GET SPECIFIC

This is the equipment that I shoot with and the settings I typically use:

  • Olympus OMD E-M1 or E-M5 Mark II
  • Olympus M.12-40mm PRO lens
  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • RAW and jpeg file format
  • ISO 200 (a low ISO produces a cleaner image with less noise than a higher ISO setting)
  • Aperture f/8 to f/22 depending on how much depth of field I want
  • Shutter Speed – In Aperture Priority the camera chooses the shutter speed. Since I am using a tripod for most shots the actual shutter speed doesn’t matter much unless I need to freeze some action.

 
7. GO AUTO

If the settings I’ve mentioned in the above section make you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry about it. Every camera has a Sunset Scene Mode that will do all the thinking for you. When I purchased my first digital camera I regularly relied on this auto mode and got some great results. As a matter of fact if you are new to landscape photography generally, I urge you to focus on the composition and let the camera worry about the exposure. Just don’t use it as a crutch for too long. Push yourself to learn how to control the exposure.

8. GET IT IN FOCUS

Nothing is more disappointing than spending your evening shooting that amazing sunset, and then, upon uploading you discover that they are all out of focus. Follow these steps to help avoid that disappointment.

  • Focus on your point of interest. Usually it is fairly close to you.
  • Use a fairly small aperture (f/11 to f/18). Aperture helps control your depth of field (how much of your image is in focus).
  • Typically we want our landscape shots to be in focus throughout the image. A smaller aperture can help guarantee that.
  • Be warned however, smaller apertures mean longer shutter speeds, but more importantly can lead to diffraction of the light.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Use a shutter release cable, wireless Smartphone app (like OI.Share) or a 2-second time delay. As you press the shutter release there is a good chance that the camera will move slightly, even if it is solidly attached to a tripod.

 
9. TWEAK IT

I regularly get asked, “Do you Photoshop your work?” The short answer is “Yes.” The longer answer is: I use Adobe Lightroom more than Photoshop for adjusting an image. Typically I will only work with overall exposure by adjusting the ‘Curves’ in order to improve the overall contrast in the image. This helps brighten the colors of the sky.


 

ABOUT PETER BAUMGARTEN

Peter has been a dedicated Olympus shooter for over 30 years, and he has found a way to combine his passion for photography with his love of teaching to develop photography and graphic design courses at the high school level.
Web: http://www.creativeislandphoto.com
Blog:http://www.creativeislandphoto.com/blog Twitter:@creativeisland4
 

9 Tips for Memorable Vacation Photos

 
Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Anne Day
. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images to enlarge.
 

TIP 1: THINK OF YOUR VACATION AS A STORY YOU WANT TO TELL

In addition to taking fun snapshots of your family, try to establish shots of where you are and what gives you a feeling for the place. I was on a vacation in France and when everyone went inside after a long day at the beach, I took a picture just to remember what the place felt like with nobody there. Nothing remained except the chairs and towels we had left there. I used the PEN E-PL1 with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R at ISO 200 with the pinhole art filter because I like the way it renders color.

TIP 2: DON’T BE AFRAID OF LOW LIGHT

I shot this picture using the PEN E-PL3, ISO 400, 1/8 sec, f/9 – with the on camera flash. Dark night and fire are difficult to photograph but I wanted to illuminate the girls’ faces a bit more than what the fire was allowing for. By using a slow shutter speed, I was also able to capture the boats and water in the background. The show shutter speed also captured the shadows of the flames on each of their faces. Overall, I like the naturalness and spontaneity of this image.

TIP 3: ISO AND SHUTTER SPEED ARE IMPORTANT

Fireworks pictures can be boring but if you shoot at a slow shutter speed you are able to capture some ambient light. An exploding firework in a black sky picture with nothing else in the photograph is not interesting. If you have foreground and some color in the sky, the photo opportunity gets more interesting and using a slow shutter speed is the best way to enhance the picture. In this case, it was so dark that I also needed an ISO of 1600. The slow shutter speed also enabled me to capture the wind blowing the sparks, which gave some movement to the image.

TIP 4: THE BEST PORTRAIT ISN’T ALWAYS A SMILEY ONE

I caught my neighbor on a summer afternoon in a pensive moment behind the screen door. I used the Pinhole filter on the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens, 1/80 at f/3.2 to let me concentrate on her face as opposed to the background.

TIP 5: SMILING PHOTOS CAN ALSO BE GOOD

I know I just said that a portrait doesn’t always have to include a smile, but sometimes it is what makes the picture. This little boy had just caught a crab and his smile tells the whole story. And somehow, the crab shape and his smile are the same! I shot this with the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.6. I wanted to see the background but didn’t want it to be so sharp as to fight with the main subject.

TIP 6: EXTRAORDINARY PICTURES CAN BE MADE IN ORDINARY SITUATIONS

This scene is a place I have driven by dozens of times and honestly, it’s rarely interesting. But when a storm was blowing and the light was crazy, I illuminated just that part of the hill where the barn is. I shot this from my car. Take advantage of the amazing light you can get in a storm. This was shot with my OM-D EM-1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/80 sec., f/6.3.

TIP 7: CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMERA

This picture was shot with the TOUGH TG-3, which is shockproof and waterproof. I was in the water with this girl and she came up from a dive. Because I had the TOUGH I was able to capture the image without any fear of getting the camera wet. I usually always have it with me there because there is no other way to capture the excitement and movement of being underwater.

TIP 8: TRY TO FIND THE MOON IN GOOD LIGHT

I tend to get bored by sunsets but every once in a while, I get a shot of the moon that I love. This was last summer’s super moon. If you expose for the moon your foreground will go dark. If you expose for the landscape then the moon will turn into a white hole. The OM-D E-M1 has a double exposure mode so you can take two shots and blend them together. Or, you can do what I did and take two separate images and blend them together later in your processing software. Either way, your moonscape is much nicer if both the landscape and the moon are properly exposed.

TIP 9: ALWAYS HAVE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU

The best camera is the one in your hand when something amazing is happening. I captured this picture of my son on vacation at a lake as the light was perfect. Without a camera though, I would not have been able to capture the moment.

ABOUT ANNE DAY

Website: http://www.annedayphotography.com

Olympus Visionary Anne Day is a veteran photojournalist, portrait, wedding and architecture photographer and writer based in New York City and Connecticut, but she will tell you her favorite subjects are her family members. Her well-respected work has appeared in TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune, Vogue and other publications.