Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Common beauty

Although sunrises and sunsets occur every day, many of us do not live in a place with open vistas that reveal great views of them. Others of us have become bored with them because they seem to be such common fodder for photographers that they just seem mundane.

If you pressed me to address the worthiness of photographing a sunrise or sunset from a creativity perspective, especially such a common scene as the one I offer here, I’d have to agree that they are both creatively unoriginal and, well, I’ll just say it—trite. They’re not something I’d hold up representing my photographic triumphs.

But for me, especially as I get older, I’d have to say one of the main reasons I photograph is the pleasure I get from seeing and existing in moments of beauty. What I’m trying to say is that I love being present in locations that provide good views of the rising or setting sun. The peacefulness is pervasive. I revel in the subtle gradations of color, even those flamboyant reds and oranges, and especially get excited at seeing the contrast of a deep black silhouette, such as this fisherman, against the color gradations of the sky.

In short, my emotions and logic tangle when it comes to the sun hovering on the horizon, but the emotions won out yesterday. Give me the calming serenity of a checker chip sun slowly slipping into the still waters on a warm summer evening, and I know I’ll sleep well that night.

Here are a few tips. Arrive an hour before the sun is scheduled to set or rise and explore the location for the best angle. If it’s a sunset, hang around for about fifteen minutes after it sets to see what colors might magically appear in the sun. To make the sun seem fairly large, use a focal length of 200 mm or longer. Lock in a meter reading of the sky next to but excluding the sun so that the sun’s brightness doesn’t cause the meter to underexpose (make too dark) the picture. Bracket exposure by taking several pictures at different shutter-aperture combinations to determine which best shows the colors of the sky and the foreground. Bracket compositions, sometimes show more sky and water to emphasize the vastness of our world or zoom in close to emphasize the subject and its graphic qualities.

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