Pro tips for sunrise (and sunset) photography

Re3iRtH

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Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.

I have just purchase my first ever DSLR and am trying to start with sunrises. There are beautiful sunrises and sunsets pretty much daily here :) My equipment is a Nikon D3300 with 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm lenses. I have been trying to shoot on Aperture priority with the smaller lens. Could I get away without a tripod for the time being, at least waiting at least the sun is above the horizon, that way I can use a lower shutter? Thanks for your feedback!
 

TwilitLens

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Hi again! Tripods are so useful that I can't recommend them enough. They provide a stable platform that helps to avoid camera shake, especially for long exposure times. Plus with certain mounts attached, they can make taking stitched-together panoramas a lot easier to take too. But if you can't get your hands on one right now, there are alternatives to help you out. You could try bench resting, i.e. propping your camera or yourself against some sort of large object like a wall or rail. Or you might try a gorillapod or similar mini mount. Also, if any of your lenses have image stabilization, that might help you keep a steadier hand. Just remember never to use IS with a tripod; the 'pod's inherent stability will confuse the mechanism.

If you are looking for a landscape shot, wide angle lenses are the best. Your 18-55 should be a good start for that. But if you're looking to take shots of objects or people illuminated during the magic hours of the day, then normal to telephotos might serve you better.

Do you have any specific details of your project in mind?
 

weepete

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Sure, but you'll want to keep your shutter speed above 1/focal length to avoid shake from your hands affecting the image. Even then you may need to keep a minimum shutter speed if 1/60th of a sec to keep everything sharp at the wide end. your aperture will need to be quite small so use f11-f16 and bump up your ISO to get a good exposure. Your camera has an in built light meter, so learn how to use it and your metering modes to get the exposure you want.

Another option is to find a stable platform, like a rock, wall, tree or somyhing to keep your camera steady (a big beanbag to sit your camera on can help), enable your timer to keep the camera stable with a long shutter speed.
 

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Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.

I have just purchase my first ever DSLR and am trying to start with sunrises. There are beautiful sunrises and sunsets pretty much daily here :) My equipment is a Nikon D3300 with 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm lenses. I have been trying to shoot on Aperture priority with the smaller lens. Could I get away without a tripod for the time being, at least waiting at least the sun is above the horizon, that way I can use a lower shutter? Thanks for your feedback!

This may be unwanted advice so feel free to disregard (as my wife so often does.)
Sunrises and sunsets are difficult and, in the long run, generally unrewarding, because the wide range of light makes good exposures a bit difficult.
Either the foreground is so dark that nothing much can be seen or part of the sky is completely blown out.
But more importantly, the way the scene looks overwhelms your attempt to make an interestingly framed photo and, when you do get a photo, it is like the millions of other sunrises/sunsets that everyone else has taken.

I suggest you start with less dramatic, less hackneyed subjects.
Just walk around, using the camera to frame and capture lots of different environments.
Use this phase to actually learn how your camera works in lots of situations rather than the one.
 
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NancyMoranG

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^
When I saw your first sentence I thought....'starting with a tough scenario'
Obviously, go take the sunset/rise but don't expect much yet.
Learn the camera a little first and enjoy.
Welcome..
 

KmH

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Re3iRtH

Re3iRtH

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Thanks! Could you give an example of which shutter speed above 1/focal length? Say focal length is 1/60, then what shutter speed would be best.

Sure, but you'll want to keep your shutter speed above 1/focal length to avoid shake from your hands affecting the image. Even then you may need to keep a minimum shutter speed if 1/60th of a sec to keep everything sharp at the wide end. your aperture will need to be quite small so use f11-f16 and bump up your ISO to get a good exposure. Your camera has an in built light meter, so learn how to use it and your metering modes to get the exposure you want.

Another option is to find a stable platform, like a rock, wall, tree or somyhing to keep your camera steady (a big beanbag to sit your camera on can help), enable your timer to keep the camera stable with a long shutter speed.
 
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Re3iRtH

Re3iRtH

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That burst my bubble, haha.

Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.

I have just purchase my first ever DSLR and am trying to start with sunrises. There are beautiful sunrises and sunsets pretty much daily here :) My equipment is a Nikon D3300 with 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm lenses. I have been trying to shoot on Aperture priority with the smaller lens. Could I get away without a tripod for the time being, at least waiting at least the sun is above the horizon, that way I can use a lower shutter? Thanks for your feedback!

This may be unwanted advice so feel free to disregard (as my wife so often does.)
Sunrises and sunsets are difficult and, in the long run, generally unrewarding, because the wide range of light makes good exposures a bit difficult.
Either the foreground is so dark that nothing much can be seen or part of the sky is completely blown out.
But more importantly, the way the scene looks overwhelms your attempt to make an interestingly framed photo and, when you do get a photo, it is like the millions of other sunrises/sunsets that everyone else has taken.

I suggest you start with less dramatic, less hackneyed subjects.
Just walk around, using the camera to frame and capture lots of different environments.
Use this phase to actually learn how your camera works in lots of situations rather than the one.
 
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Re3iRtH

Re3iRtH

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I hiked up kokohead last evening and met 2 different guys trying to shoot the sunset, both had tripods. I think it was virtually impossible for me to get a decent shot without a tripod. Got one decent photo with the city lights coming on late into the sunset. But that was it.
 

The_Traveler

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Thanks! Could you give an example of which shutter speed above 1/focal length? Say focal length is 1/60, then what shutter speed would be best.

Focal length is not a ratio. Focal length is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus, usually stated in millimeters.
So if the focal length is 50 mm, the minimum speed you should be shooting at is 1/50.
There are some conditions attached to that.
  1. Since the effective focal length of a crop frame camera is ~1.6 than using a 50 mm, the minimum shutter speed should be ~1/80.
  • If there is vibration compensation so you probably get away with longer shutter speeds.
  • If you have good hand-support technique " " " "
 

Derrel

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A tripod is not essential to shoot sunrise or sunset shots; hundreds of millions of hand-held sunrise/sunset shots have been made, over multiple decades. If you want to be able to do deep depth of field, with focus that is sharp from near to Infinity, you might very well elect to use a tripod. However, many sunset shots are mostly long-range (800 to 2,000 yards) to Infinity shots, so there's not a pressing need for a small f/stop, and you can shoot hand-held at a moderate f/stop like f/4.5, and get a decent shot with no tripod.

Image Stabilized (Canon IS) or Vibration Reduction lenses (Nikon VR) will allow a person to shoot hand-held at slow speeds and smaller apertures, like say f/9.5 to f/16, when there is a need to created Near/Far shots with great depth of field while shooting hand-held at slowish speeds.

One tip for a good sunrise or sunset is to have something that is interesting in the foreground, or a large, substantial mid-distance object, to convey some sense of scale, and of depth, to the shot. A prominent headland jutting out into the ocean, for example, can be a good mid-ground object. In a marina, sailboats and their masts are a classic example of foreground objects.
 

astroNikon

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My equipment is a Nikon D3300 with 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm lenses. I have been trying to shoot on Aperture priority with the smaller lens. Could I get away without a tripod for the time being, at least waiting at least the sun is above the horizon, that way I can use a lower shutter? Thanks for your feedback!
Sure you could get away with not using a Tripod "for the time being"
But your photos will suffer due to it. Most newbies cannot hand hold a camera steady under 1/125 shutter speed. Thus you will get blur from the camera.

More advanced shooters will use a Tripod, and also MirrorUP ability of their camera with a remote shutter release.

VR - Vibration Reduction will help you use slower shutter speeds than normal.
But it's a start. As you have noted other photographers are showing up with more and better equipment. Ask them how they are doing their sunrises/sunsets as you are at a starting point of learning.
 

TCampbell

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This is a little more advanced, but here goes.

Normally you can let a camera do a form of evaluative metering (matrix metering) and it will analyze all the "zones" in your image and try to identify the best exposure for the shot. When shooting landscapes, a photographer normally tries to find the brightest element in the scene and also the darkest element in the scene and separately meters both (using spot metering) to identify an exposure in the middle that will capture the whole scene.

But the Sun is tricky... it will always be far brighter than the brightest thing in your scene and it will always be over-exposed -- pretty much no matter what you do (well... I do have some solar filters used for astronomy but then everything else in the scene will be absolutely black.) So what you do ... is ignore the Sun when metering. You can either meter the sky with the camera using spot metering or if using matrix metering make sure the Sun isn't in the frame and this will give you a pretty good exposure for "everything else" in your scene that isn't the sun (because the sun would be over-exposed anyway.) Meter and lock that exposure... then re-compose the shot with the Sun.

A little more advanced yet is the use of special gradient neutral density filters but you'll want to get a bit of experience using the camera before you dive into that (these are rectangular filters that are tinted on one half and clear on the other half and you slide them into a holder... they "darken" the sky but do not darken the land and that way you get a more balanced exposure. Again... don't race out to buy these... get comfortably familiar with your camera (without the filters) for now. Just know that there are a few tricks that advanced landscape photographers know that you may eventually want to learn if you maintain an interest in landscape photography.
 

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