Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to photograph a sunrise or sunset

1. Scout out the location first. If possible, go past during the day. Try to get some idea of where the sun will rise or set, and where you might be able to stand to get a good view. Look where the river or lake lies (reflections). Look out for trees (good for framing, foreground interest, silhouettes). Where will other people be?

Whitsunday sunset (by Ian B-M)

2. Arrive early, stay late. Best light quality and colour is usually up to half an hour on the dark side, and quarter of an hour on the daylight side. Yes, that does mean you might have to get out of bed an hour or two before sunrise! (It’s so worth it.)

Dawn breaking (by Ian B-M)

3. Take your tripod. Light levels will be low. You could hand-hold at a higher ISO, but then you’ll get more image noise. (Me, I’m not a big fan of post-processing to get rid of image noise.)

4. Check camera settings. First, exposure. Your camera is going to try to make the scene a dull grey on average. The sun is very bright. Before it rises (or after it sets), light level will be low—your camera may not even be able to focus, and it is likely to over-expose. But if the sun is in the frame, expect the automatic setting to give you a dark, dull image with the sun a bright spot. To fix this, you have three choices: (a) choose “Sunset” mode if your camera has one; (b) use exposure compensation to modify what the camera thinks is right; or, (c) switch to manual exposure and adjust until it looks good on the preview screen. (I just love digital photography! With film you had to bracket like mad and hope something worked.) As for white balance, choosing “Cloudy” or “Shade” will make the result even warmer than real life.

5. Look behind you. You never know what (or who) you might see, where no-one else is looking.

Watching the dawn (by Ian B-M)

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This work by Ian Bailey-Mortimer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

A little about me

Ok, so who am I and why should you pay attention to anything I say?

Professionally, I'm a mathematics teacher living in Mackay, Queensland, Australia. I'm also an experienced computer programmer.

But I've been taking photographs almost as long as I've been alive—certainly for as long as I can remember! My father was putting cameras (35mm SLR or Super-8) in my hands since I was maybe 4 years old, and encouraged me to experiment and learn. My formal education in mathematics and physics gave me a better understanding of some of the technical details of photography, supplemented more recently by a little background reading in design and philosophy.

Since leaving high school and home, I have invested in my own camera equipment (initially Pentax 35mm SLRs, now a Nikon DSLR) and gradually developed and built my skills and technical repertoire. I have tried a wide variety of films, both print & slide, and I have particularly enjoyed exploring the wonderful, instant-feedback world of digital photography!

You can see some of my more recent photography on Flickr. Of course, most of the photos I've taken in my life were from before I bought my first digital camera in December 2006, and I've only scanned a few of my favourites.