HOW TO PREDICT DRAMATIC SUNSETS

Sunset photos are probably the most loved photos people take pictures of. Sometimes you wait for the perfect sunset, and it never comes. Well, I just found an amazing article on How to Predict a Good Sunset. This has helped me tremendously, and I hope it helps you:

Summer sunset over Marietta Ohio just after a storm had past through earlier in the afternoon.
“Red Sky”  Summer sunset over Marietta, Ohio

One question every child asks is, “Why is the sky blue?” But let’s look at why is the sky red at Sunset. Light from the sun is made up of all the colors in the rainbow. As the sunlight enters the earth’s atmosphere, the short wavelength of blue light is scattered in all directions, more than any of the other colors, causing the sky to be blue during the day.

At sunrise and sunset, the light has farther to travel due to the low angle of the sun in the sky. This causes the blue light to be blocked and scattered away, allowing the longer wavelengths of red and yellow colors to appear in the sky.

I am sure you wish there was some magic formula that could tell you exactly the night for photographing a beautiful sunset? It’s not that easy, but hopefully, we can discover some ways to increase your odds.

Let’s take a closer look at some other factors that will help you predict brilliantly-colored sunsets.

You have no doubt heard the saying “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight”. This saying can also help you predict sunsets (and sunrises) if you know the weather forecast. Look for a red sky at sunrise ahead of a storm and at sunset after a storm. Knowing what to expect weather-wise is key to anticipating the right conditions for a shoot, so the first thing you need to do is find a good weather app or website.

A website such as Intellicast.com will give you a detailed hourly report for key factors: cloud cover, air quality, humidity, and wind speed.

Winter sunset after a snow storm.
Winter sunset after a snow storm.

Clouds and Cloud Cover

Clouds are a crucial factor to predicting dramatic sunsets, for without clouds there is not much to see.

One common misconception of brilliant sunsets is that clouds create the colors; in reality clouds only serve as the canvas to display the colors that the light is painting. High to mid-level clouds are the most effective canvases, as they will reflect the colors of the setting sun. Puffy clouds on the horizon at sunset will more than likely not allow the sun rays to pass through them, thus muting the colors. Lower clouds (such as dark rain-filled clouds) are not very helpful at reflecting much light.

If the clouds on the horizon are low and thick, the sun will not be able to shine through them. It is also worth noting that too many or too few clouds can be detrimental for an optimal photo, so check out your detailed weather report for cloud cover percentages between 30 to 70 percent at sunset.

You can observe cloud conditions in the afternoon and if the sky looks favorable, you can hope that these clouds will still be present at sunset. No guarantees, but if there is not much wind these clouds may stick around to create a beautiful sunset.

A brief description of fair weather clouds that may produce dramatic sunsets:

  • Cirrocumulus Clouds – These look like ripples on water. Blue sky is the usual backdrop.
  • Altocumulus Clouds – Often occur in sheets or patches with wavy, rounded masses or rolls, like little cotton balls. They are generally white or grey and usually appear after a storm.
  • Cumulus Clouds – Easily recognizable, large, white, and fluffy, often with flat bases.
  • Cirrus Clouds – Generally characterized by thin, wispy strands. These clouds arrive in advance of frontal systems indicating that weather conditions may soon deteriorate. Nevertheless, these are one of the best kind for photographing dramatic sunsets!
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If you see this kind of sky in the afternoon with calm winds, chances are good you are in for something special at sunset.
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Clean Air

Clean air is very effective at scattering the blue light. For this reason, one of the best times for dramatic sunsets is right after a rain or wind storm. While lower clouds rarely reflect brilliant colors (as mentioned above), note that where the lower atmosphere is especially clean, as in over open oceans in tropical regions, more vivid colors are allowed pass through. This is the reason so many beautiful sunset images are captured in the tropics.

Humidity

The amount of humidity in the air will also have an effect on the colors of your sunset. Lower humidity will produce more vibrant colors. With higher humidity, the colors will be muted because of the water content in the atmosphere. The seasons of autumn and winter typically produce lower humidity than in the warmer seasons.

Wind

Wind is a factor that can either enhance or destroy a beautiful sunset. A change in wind direction can cause the clouds to develop ripples or billows, which can create a beautiful effect as the setting sun reflects a nice red glow onto the ripples.

Also, as established earlier, clean air will produce more brilliant colors, and a nice breeze before sunset can help clear the air.

Unfortunately, the wind can become a negative factor on those days when favorable clouds are present in the afternoon, but a weather front moves through with strong winds that remove those clouds and leave you with a clear sky at sunset.

This is another instance when a good weather app or weather website can give you an indication on its radar as to when a front may move through your area.

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To summarize your sunset prediction, look for:

  • Mid to high-level clouds
  • 30 to 70 percent cloud coverage
  • Clean air
  • Lower humidity
  • Calm winds

A final thought to consider when photographing sunsets – sometimes the afterglow of the sunset, which can occur 15 to 20 minutes after the sun goes behind the horizon, can be much more spectacular than the actual sunset.

Generally, all these weather-related rules also apply to photographing sunrise, but the visual signs are more difficult to spot since it is darkest before the dawn. A good time to photograph at sunrise is in the fall and winter when it occurs later in the day than in the summer months.

The post How to Predict Dramatic Sunsets appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

More great sunset photos:

symmetrical photography of clouds covered blue sky
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com
light sea dawn landscape
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
beach birds calm clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
brown and green grass field during sunset
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Expanding Your Photographic Creativity !

The new year has come and gone and we find ourselves well and truly into 2020. Traditionally, many significant goals are made around the new year mark. But setting goals is a great way to work towards achieving a desired outcome at any time of the year. So why wait? Here are some simple creativity goals you can set yourself to expand on your photographic practice right now.

creativity goals post-it notes

Goal 1: try new subject matter

There’s nothing wrong with specialising, but branching out in photography can often reveal surprising creative opportunities.

For the first of our creativity goals, grab a pen and paper. Your task is to list at least 10 subjects that interest you but that you haven’t photographed in a while (if at all). Bugs, aviation, food, architecture… the list can be as varied as you’d like.

Once you’ve finished compiling your list, narrow your results down to the three most appealing (and doable) options. You want topics that interest you, but are also realistic and achievable.

creativity goals photographing insects
One of my chosen subjects for this goal was insects. f/4.5 1/1600 ISO 640

Once you’ve decided on your top three, set a reasonable time frame to photograph your chosen subject matter (it can be weeks, months or even years!).

You may also need to consider what photographic equipment you require for your goal. And don’t forget to do your research. Good research into a subject and a realistic time frame will help you make an actionable plan to achieve your creativity goals.

Keep your list nearby as motivation. You could stick it on the fridge, or in your camera bag…somewhere that will remind you of your goal. You could even use the list as a check-list of sorts. The point is that you have identified topics of interest and made a commitment to work towards a corresponding goal.

By creating a list of new subject matter, doing the research, and setting an actionable goal, you’ve already created a solid foundation from which to launch into new photographic opportunities.

Goal 2: room for improvement

Goal setting is a great way to check-in with your own creative process. Grab yourself another sheet of paper and a pen (don’t worry, the whole article isn’t about list-making) and jot down two or three aspects that might be hindering your creative practice. Some ideas are:

  • Running low on time for creativity
  • Lack of photographic direction or improvement
  • Difficulty with the technical aspects of photography
  • Suffering from creative blocks
  • A decrease in inspiration

Next, write some actionable goals that will make a positive impact in the areas you’ve identified as needing improvement. Here’s my list:

  1. Running short on time – dedicate 30 minutes to creativity a day – 1 week
  2. Creative block – photograph at least one favourite subject each week – 1 month

You’ll notice I also added a time frame to complete or perform these goals – this will give you motivation, and a concrete idea of how your goal will impact your practice.

Again, choose a realistic time frame. You can always elect to tackle a goal for a week and then expand the duration from there.

creativity goals abstract photography in black and white
Photographing a favourite subject regularly is a goal that can keep you motivated within your creative practice. f/4.0 1/100 ISO 100

Put your list on your cork board, in your organiser, as an alarm on your phone…whatever works. The list serves as a reminder for you to make time for growing your own practice.

Do your best to achieve the creativity goals you’ve set, but don’t worry if you can’t get everything done. Goal setting is about gradual growth, and every small step toward your goal is a victory. Just do your best!

Goal 3: try new tools and techniques

Not everyone has a spare camera, lens, tripod, etc laying around. But if you do, setting a dedicated goal to put some of your underused equipment to good use is a great way to expand your creativity. The same goes for testing out some new photographic techniques.

blurred and abstract photography creativity goals
Adopting a goal to take up blurred or abstract photography is a great way to expand your creativity. f/1.8 1/320 ISO 800

You don’t have to set a terribly elaborate goal to make a difference. Committing to experimenting with an old lens can offer a completely new perspective.

Shooting with film for a month can test your photographic approach.

Setting a goal to get out of Auto Mode or tackling a new technique each week in-camera or in Photoshop will grow your practice significantly. Setting creativity goals based around new tools and techniques challenges your photographic approach, thus, building your creative repertoire.

Goal 4: taking time out for inspiration

We touched on this before, but inspiration can be a fleeting phenomenon. One minute you’re bursting at the seams with creativity and then running on empty the next.

Creativity goals inspire us to take the time to do a stock-take on our own creative levels. Everyone feels creatively drained from time to time, but making a dedicated gap in your schedule to check-in with what is going on in the artistic sphere creates more opportunities for gathering inspiration and technical knowledge.

research creativity goals in photography
f/2.2 1/80 ISO 200

Start by setting a goal to dedicate at least 15-30 minutes per day for a week to inspiration. Reading books, going to exhibitions, researching websites (like Digital Photography School of course!), filling up a visual diary, and even checking Instagram can all contribute to a greater grasp of photographic theory and execution.

Motivational text for creativity goals

Once your set period of inspirational activities is over, review and make adjustments to your goal so it better suits your daily regimen.

Then…start again!

Soon, you’ll be in the habit of surrounding yourself with inspirational resources that recharge your creative practice and keep you abreast of creative possibilities and solutions.

Conclusion

Goal setting may seem daunting at first. However, once you break the process down, the usefulness and accessibility of goal-making become more apparent.

Goals encourage us to take active steps towards bettering our photographic practice. By making creativity goals, we commit to expanding our creativity incrementally, bettering our theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

The post 4 Goals to Set for Expanding Your Photographic Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Creative photos to think about:

man holding ice cream cone under cloud
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com
close up photo of cat s eye
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com
assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl
Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com
woman with floral headdress lying on green leaf plants
Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu on Pexels.com
art attractive beautiful beauty
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Part 4: Understanding functions of your DSLR camera

This week, I am spending time talking about the different functions of your camera, including cell phones (See Monday’s blog). Tuesday, I covered the funner parts of your DSLR camera, talking about aperture, shutter speed, and the ISO settings.

Today we are continuing on this subject of camera functions by talking about: Focusing modes, and then the exposure compensation control. I just hope that many of you know that you have these functions on your DSLR. Let’s learn about these functions:

3. Focusing Modes (Single Point vs. Spectrum)

This relates to how the autofocus system works. You may have the experience of turning on a DSLR camera and, when you go to focus the camera, in order to take a test shot, a bunch of different indicators flash upon the LCD or Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). These indicators are the different points of the spectrum that have been activated and the camera calculates that certain areas are the ones that you may want in focus, and these are typically represented by red or green boxes over different parts of the image. What typically works better (and by that, I mean, is more reliable and less annoying), is to go into your camera’s menu system, turn off the spectrum focusing option, and switch your camera so that it focuses just on a single point (typically in the center of the frame, although you can adjust this, such as placing the single focusing point over the point where a key subject is or will be in your image so that you get that subject in focus).

4. Back Focus

It seems that a lot of DSLR cameras are set up by their manufacturers so that the shutter button handles both the focusing part AND the exposure part of taking a photo. This can be fine, for a while, and you can get pretty adept at subtly pressing the shutter button half way to focus on your target subject before applying a bit more pressure on the same button to take the photo. However, there may come a time when this system ends up costing you valuable photo opportunities. For instance, when doing light painting photography, you’ll be working in relative darkness, taking time to set up your camera and focusing on just the right point in the image where you want tack-sharp clarity. Then comes the moment when you’ll press the shutter button to begin the long exposure so that you can walk out in front of the camera to wave your torch around, to capture the spectacular movements of light. However, just as you go to press the shutter button, you fail to put the right amount of pressure through the button, and the camera treats it like you’ve requested a change of focus, and the autofocus system kicks in, taking the camera out of the perfectly adjusted focus point.

On the more sophisticated DSLRs, you can save yourself this sort of aggravation by decoupling the autofocus feature from the shutter button and assigning the autofocus to one of the other option buttons. The reason why this method is called “Back Focusing” is because the button that is usually selected for the job of focusing is typically on the back of the camera, but in close-enough proximity to the shutter button so that you can easily engage the newly assigned autofocus button with your thumb while your forefinger remains the trigger finger to engage the shutter button. It does take a little getting used to, but it does enhance your workflow and the way in which you operate your camera.

https://i0.wp.com/www.mediacollege.com/downloads/graphics/backfocus01.gif?resize=584%2C389&ssl=1

If you find that your focus is sharp when you are zoomed in but soft when zoomed out, your back focus needs adjusting. This normally only happens to cameras with detachable lenses — consumer-level camera users shouldn’t have to worry about it.

Technical Note: Back focus refers to the “focal flange length”. This is the distance between the rear lens element and the CCD.

You will need:

  • A camera with a back focus ring. It will be located toward the rear of the lens housing.
  • A back focus chart like the one pictured is helpful, but any object with sharp contrast will do.

How to Adjust the Camera Back Focus

  1. Set your camera on a tripod or stable mount, with your subject (back focus chart or other contrasting object) at least 20 metres/70 feet away (or as far as possible).
     
  2. Your iris should be wide open, so it’s better to perform this operation in low light. Alternatively, add some shutter speed or a ND filter.
     
  3. If your lens has a 2X extender, switch it to 1X.
     
  4. Zoom in on your subject.
     
  5. Adjust the focus normally until the picture is sharp. If you’re using a back focus chart, the centre of the chart will appear blurry – your focus is sharpest when the blurred circle is smallest. (You can simulate this effect by looking at the chart above and defocusing your eyes.)
     
  6. Zoom out.
     
  7. Loosen the back-focus ring’s locking screw, and adjust the ring until the picture is sharp.
     
  8. Repeat steps 3-6 until the focus is consistently sharp.
     
  9. Tighten the back-focus locking screw.

5. Exposure Compensation

A snowy scene frequently confuses your camera's meter. To the left is a shot taken at normal exposure. To the right is one taken after adding in a stop of exposure compensation (overexposure).

You may not use this feature all of the time, but there are certainly occasions when you’ll want to take advantage of the exposure compensation setting to help improve the overall quality of your image. The exposure compensation settings are measured in values, with zero in the middle, then you either go to the plus values, to brighten the image, or into the minus values, to darken the image. Why would you want to do this, when you’ve already adjusted the brightness with either the aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO settings? The problem is, with modern DSLR cameras, the algorithms they use tend to result in overcompensation of light quality with the resulting image. If you’re photographing in dark conditions, such as at night or in the evening (when you get those darker blues, for instance), without using exposure compensation, the camera will calculate that any source of light, such as street lights, lanterns, etc., will be rendered extremely bright, as the DSLR overcompensates to make sure the light can be seen in the dark environment. Professional photographers will often deal with this by using the exposure compensation feature, and dialing down into the minus values, typically going to -1 of exposure compensation, in order to tone down those light sources in the resulting image. Conversely, when out in a really bright environment, such as in snow, an exposure compensation value of +1, or even +2, will help to combat the camera’s tendency to overcompensate in the other way. What you’ll typically find is that without adjusting the exposure compensation settings, anything that’s white in your scene will most likely be rendered a really ugly grey color. By adding a value of +1 or +2 of exposure compensation, you’re able to bring back that brilliant white.

Night-Comp
PlusMinusButton

Photos using these examples:

Part 2: Understanding your DSLR camera functions !

Unlike talking about the cellphone and learning the details of how that type of camera works, today’s blog will focus on how to understand your new DSLR camera. First off, to learn about this type of camera, I’m wondering how many know what DSLR means? Let’s get that out of the way, then we can get into some serious work. DSLR = Digital Single Lens Reflex. That is usually reserved for cameras with interchangeable lenses. Not all DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses, but let’s say over 90 percent of the cameras do.

There is a lot to learn about this type of camera, so, this will probably be a multi-part blog. Tonight let’s focus (no pun intended) on the first few major settings of a DSLR Camera: The aperture, shutter speed and the ISO settings. And to help me with these subjects, I am going to use an article from Graham Wadden on Picture/Correct. I may just use a few extra pictures so you understand fully what each function does for you.

dslr camera

1. Shooting Modes

Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority Mode lets you control / adjust the aperture while the camera takes charge of determining the shutter speed, based upon the other settings (including the aperture). Adjusting the aperture causes background elements in your scene to become either crystal clear or blurred. The wider the aperture, (like the lower number on your aperture dial: F2.8, F2. etc.) the more the background elements will become blurred, as you focus on your main subject. Conversely, a narrower aperture (this would be the higher numbers on your aperture lens, like F11, F16 and F22) enables you to include more things in your scene without them being lost to the blurring that occurs with the wider apertures.

aperture priority mode
photo by Koshy Koshy

Another thing that aperture adjustment does (in manual mode) is to brighten or darken the overall image. With a wider aperture, you’re letting more light in through the lens and onto the camera’s sensor, so images will become bright. Go the other way, and your images will become darker as you narrow the aperture, as this time you’re letting less light reach the sensor during the period of the exposure.

Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter Priority Mode lets you control / adjust the speed of the shutter while the camera takes charge of determining the aperture. Adjusting the shutter speed will let you freeze motion if you choose a faster shutter speed (Example: 1/2000 second, or even 1/1000 of a second). A slower shutter speed will increase the amount of motion blur in your images. A good example would be including a subtle blurring of the wings of a kestrel, as it hovers in the sky. You capture this activity with a slower shutter speed. Adjusting the shutter speed also affects the brightness of the image in a similar way as adjusting the aperture (in manual mode). If you select a faster shutter speed, you’re reducing the time that the shutter is held open, which lets less light into the camera’s sensor, resulting in a darkening of the overall image. Conversely, you will notice images become brighter as you slow down the shutter speed, as you’re causing the camera to hold the shutter open for slightly longer, letting in more light onto the sensor as a result.

A perfect example of what a slow shutter speed can do for your picture. Notice how the water is blurred, almost giving that a dreamlike effect.
A high speed shutter setting is often used with sports photography. Notice how you can freeze the action.

Manual Mode

Manual Mode lets you control / adjust both shutter speed and the aperture. Choose this option if you want total control over determining these two settings rather than letter the camera’s algorithms calculate the most appropriate settings. You may be fine with that; but, then again, taking manual control will allow you absolute control over the artistic process and outcome with your photography.

2. ISO

This feature is pronounced “EYE-so”—unless you want to wind-up nerdy-types who get a bit manic over such mispronunciations, in which case treat it as an acronym; call it “I.S.O.”, then enjoy their fit of apoplexy. As for what this feature does, it allows you to control the camera’s light sensitivity based on a numerical system. The lower the ISO number (e.g. 100, 125, 200, 400), the less sensitive the camera will be to light, typically resulting in darker images (unless you have a sufficiently bright light source to compensate, such as an external flash unit). The higher the ISO numbers (e.g. 800, 1600, 2000, and beyond), the more sensitive the camera’s sensor, with lighter images being the result. But, you need to know that this light-enhancing wizardry comes at a cost, and that cost is a reduction in the overall quality of the image as a result of bumping up the ISO setting, particularly above the 1600 level.

Turning up the numbers on you ISO setting will allow you to even shoot in low light, without a flash.
high ISO
This photo was taken at night time. It looks like it was nearly daylight. Camera ISO setting was probably 3200 ISO.

Camera technology is improving all the time, and every generation of camera gets slightly better at processing images with slightly higher ISO settings. In some cases, it can be better to sacrifice overall image quality in order to get a “once in a lifetime shot” (I’m not sure that many complained about the relatively low quality of images from the first moon landings, did they?). However, in general, if you’re in pursuit of quality, then it’s often best to go for the lower ISO values, specifically, the lowest “native” ISO setting your camera lets you select. What I mean by this is that some digital cameras allow you to set the camera into “Extended ISO” mode, which opens up additional ISO settings. For instance, on the Panasonic GH4, the Extended ISO feature lets you drop down to either 80 or 100. Turn off the Extended ISO feature and whatever the lowest value you see is the camera’s true lowest “native” ISO setting. On the Panasonic GH4, this happens to be ISO 200. That’s just how this camera is designed and the engineers felt this camera worked at its most optimum levels with a minimum native ISO setting of 200. Some cameras have 100 as their native setting; others, such as the Panasonic FZ1000, begin at 125.

Notice the incredible detail of this photo. This was shot at ISO 64. The lower the number, the better detail you can get.

Thursday: Learn about: * Different focusing modes, *Back focus, * And exposure Compensation mode.

Friday: Learn about: *Custom White Balance, *the 3 different kinds of metering modes.

So much to learn about this type of camera, but, most people will try to master all these things. Once you do, your photography will take on a whole new dimension.

Other great photos, using the above steps:

Aperture set at F16
Aperture set at F2.8

Part 4: TIPS TO HELP PEOPLE RELAX IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA !

We have been focusing on taking good photos of people all week, and this blog for today, is designed to help you as a photographer, help people to relax in front of the camera. Have you ever just had a person, or group of people get set up for you to take a photo of them, and you say: “CHEESE”? That is actually when most people give you the worst smile. If you could get people to relax as you take their photo, you would have amazing photos of people.

To help us with this subject, I found a great article written by: BRYNN TEADDALE and she wrote this article for Picture / Correct. So, let’s get started:

One of the hardest parts of portrait photography is getting your nervous subjects to look natural. Jasmine Star, an international photographer who specializes in wedding photography, has had her share of experiences with uncomfortable clients. In this video, she expands on how she attempts to make her clients comfortable with the camera during her shoots:

Please watch this photographer teach you what it takes to help people relax.

1. Give your clients time to relax.

Start off your shoot by striking a conversation. Ask how their day has been going or compliment their attire. The more comfortable your client is with you as a photographer, the more natural your shots will look in the end.

jasmine-star-posing-tips

2. Explain how the photo shoot will work.

Discuss the process of the shoot. The less that is left up to the imagination, the better. This provides a stress-free environment and makes sure that both you and your clients are on the same page.

3. Be specific when giving instructions.

Often times, photographers give general commands such as, “Act natural!” The more specific you are in your instructions, the more comfortable your client will feel. Tell your subject exactly what to do.

posing-photography-models

4. Have clients move into a pose.

Once you’ve posed a client, have them relax from this pose and then move back into the pose again. This causes the shot to look less stiff and posed—and more natural.

“I firmly believe it’s not the client’s responsibility to look comfortable; it’s the photographer’s responsibility to get them where they want.”

Photographer helping the client to become relaxed with portrait.