It occurs every day and can be taken for granted because of this, but some days I am compelled to find a spot to settle in and capture it with my camera. It is the setting sun. There are times when the sky is clear and you can watch it slowly sinking into the horizon until all that is left is a glowing spot where the sun used to be.
Capturing the colors and beauty of a sunset with a camera can be difficult but there are a few adjustments one can make to help. The sun is very bright and bright things have a tendency to be overexposed. When this happens, the colors are washed out and not as vibrant as they appear to the eye. I start with setting my light meter to spot meter and aim slightly to the left or right of the sun. A smaller aperture opening – which is achieved by using the larger values – keeps the sun’s light from overexposing the scene. I used an f-stop of 22 in these photos. Using a small aperture creates the need to gather light somewhere else; this can be accomplished by either slowing down the shutter speed, raising the ISO or using a combination of both. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light the camera becomes. A slower shutter speed increases the risk of blurry pictures due to camera shake, which increases the need for a tripod or a very steady hand. I used an ISO of 800 for these and the shutter speed varied to adjust to the changing light as the sun set.
Digital cameras have a white balance setting to help the camera portray white in changing light conditions. Auto white balance works for most situations but some light sources have different hues which changes the color cast of a scene. There are options to set the white balance for different lighting conditions such as incandescent or fluorescent lighting. If you want to boost the orange and warm tones of the sunset you can set your camera to the shade setting of white balance. The light in the shade has a bluish tint so the camera adds warm tones to balance out the blues and create an even tone in that circumstance, but you can use that property differently also. It can be fun to play around and see what you get.
The cloudy setting also adds warm tones.
So, though the sun sets every day, each day’s sunset is unique and offers an opportunity to seize a moment to reflect and appreciate the rhythms of the earth . Better yet, grab your camera, turn to the west and capture a moment; maybe you will be lucky enough to catch the elusive green flash.