The beauty of dawn and dusk

Story and photos
by Linda Henderson

It is time again for New Year’s resolutions, or at least to re-look at things in our lives. My resolution is to enjoy sunsets and sunrises more. I am what you might call a sunset snob.

Many times I purposely did not photograph the sun going down or coming up. I have come to think of these events as boring or just too easy.

However, when I show my pictures of sunsets or sunrises, that is when I get the greatest reaction. The pictures that I think are not very interesting and quite ordinary of the sun going down or coming up are the pictures that seem to affect people. Sunsets and sunrises really resonate with people and move them deeply.

I think the emotional response to a sunset or sunrise picture has very little to do with my skill as a photographer but rather to something deep within our brains. The sun comes up and goes down every day. That constant gives our lives a daily rhythm. The colors displayed by the sky and the sun have a calming effect on us. Whether they are in blue tones or orange tones, the beauty inspires us to look and enjoy.

We all know how sunsets can be dreamy, stirring and Facebook worthy, but most of us only make time for sunrises or sunsets when we’re on vacation or when we are at some exotic location. Yet the sun comes up and sets every single day, no matter where we are. Enjoying this time of day can infuse a little wonder and awe into our regular routine at any location.

December, January and February can be primetime for beautiful sunrises and sunsets. In the winter months there is less humidity and a lower sun angle. Weather fronts move in quickly, which provides for clouds to reflect the sun’s light. Beautiful shades of purple, pink, orange and red are best seen during this time of year. The winter background is more stark, which helps to highlight the beauty of the sky.

Here are a few reasons to share my resolution and enjoy sunrises and sunsets:

It slows us down. Life is busy with many things to do, but taking the time to observe the sun’s awe and beauty as the day begins or ends can help us focus and determine what is really important.

It gets us outside, and nature can help to refresh our minds and souls.

It will force you to put your phone or electronics down. Go ahead and snap that picture to share on Instagram or Facebook, but then put it down, take a deep breath and enjoy. Enjoy what is going on around you. Sunsets and sunrise are something that every person on earth experiences.

Enjoying this daily event helps us to develop an appreciation for life and small blessings.

It can inspire us to do better and be more creative. Sunrise and sunset have motivated many poets, songwriters, painters and photographers to create masterpieces. So I will enjoy and photograph more sunrises and sunsets in 2016.

Photo Tips

Let’s look at some simple techniques that will help you to photograph truly stunning sunrise or sunset images.

Sunset Rule #1: Protect your eyes and camera

It can be dangerous to your eyes and to your camera’s image sensor to point your camera directly at a bright yellow sun. Using a long lens or optical zoom will magnify the damaging effects. Play it safe and get the better picture by waiting until the sun it is sinking below the horizon or is a dark red.

Sunset Rule #2: It’s all about the color

Ever photograph a brilliant sunset but then when you download it to your computer you find the beautiful colors and hues have disappeared from the image. The problem is likely your camera’s automatic white balance. While our eyes see all those brilliant sunset colors, the camera’s automatic white balance tries to correct them, to make them close to 18 percent gray. The way to solve that problems is to use a warm white balance (check your camera’s menu). If you have a point and shoot camera use the sunset or landscape mode. Turn off the flash! Often a slower shutter speed will be needed to capture the sunset; in this case, a tripod may be needed to steady your camera.

Sunset Rule #3: Composition, composition and composition!

Using a few basic landscape photography techniques will help to create stunning sunrise or sunset pictures. Cloudless skies most likely will not create the best picture. Clouds fill the sky and reflect the sun’s light. Water helps to set up beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I prefer that there is something interesting in the foreground. I love photographing a single tree, flowers or structures against a beautiful sunset. Remove things from the scene that do not add, such as power lines, soft drink bottles or clutter. How do you do that? Take a step forward, back, get lower, get higher or walk around it.

If the sky is the most dramatic part of the sunset, compose your picture so that two-thirds of it is filled with sky. If the reflection on water and silhouettes is the most captivating part of the pictures give this two-thirds of your image.

Get there early and stay late. Get there about 15 minutes to set up the shot and stay for at least 15 minutes after the sunrise or sunset. In the morning the best colors will happen just before the sun tops over the horizon. In the evening the color can be the most dramatic when the sun drops below the horizon.

However, all rules in photography are made to be broken and in some of my best, I broke the rules.

Linda Henderson
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