|Photo Tip and Assignment #5 – Sunset/SunriseHello sunshine! As a Brazilian living in London for the past nine years, the first question I’m asked by people is: “How can you stand the weather here?” Well, I am one of those people who you see lying on the grass as the first warm rays reach us after the cold months. It is true that we only learn to appreciate what we have once we find ourselves lacking it. But in the Sun’s case, this is not only a personal experience. Without the Sun, life on earth as we know it would be impossible.
It’s also hard to imagine photography without sunlight. As our main natural source of light, observing and understanding it is of foremost importance before studying any other kind of light. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to having the sun as a light source: light and shadow, harsh and diffuse light, different angles and colour temperatures. The Sun itself can be the main subject of your photographs. Most camera manuals will instruct to have the sun always behind you. This month’s assignment is about pointing your camera to it.
You don’t need to be in Japan to photograph the rising sun, but you need to wake up early. Sunsets are more manageable and in any case, the main challenge will be exposure. Try underexposing a couple of stops gradually and check the effect of it on your images. Doing that should darken and saturate the colours, capturing an image close to what we see in reality. As light should be abundant at these times, you can set a low ISO (no noise) and small apertures (high F number) to get the most of depth of field as well.
The next thing to think about is composition. There are millions of pictures out there with the sun right in the centre of the photograph. This is a habit most of us can keep from using rangefinders as our first cameras and centralising the subject in order not to crop it out of the image due to parallax error.
With SLR cameras (and most compacts with live view screen), what you see in the viewfinder is what you will get on your picture (well, around 98% of it), so you can arrange the elements on your frame in order to compose an aesthetically pleasing image. One tip to start is to follow the “rule of thirds”. Some cameras display the thirds grid, but all you have to do is imagine dividing your frame in nine equal parts by tracing two horizontal and two vertical lines. According to this rule, the intersection of the thirds are the most powerful points of interest of a photograph. Avoid leaving the sun or the horizon line right in the centre of the frame and try positioning in one of thirds’ intersections. Try different versions of it. Do vertical and horizontal shots.
After that, break the rules! Tilt your camera, play with the settings, but remember: in most cases, sunrises and sunsets last a very brief period of time, and as photographer Galen Rowell once said: “You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and does not’t waste either”. With the summer solstice approaching, let’s try and make the most of it.
Upload your Sunset/Sunrise images to the Flickr Gallery: ASSIGNMENT #5 for a chance to win a £150 Discount Voucher towards Courses and Workshops at LSP*. Then make large prints of your pictures and hang it around when it rains. We hope you have an amazing and sunny summer!
Text and Photo: Luciana Franzolin