How to Shoot Sunsets: 8 Different Ideas

A sunset is a spectacular moment in the day that nature shares, blooming deep rich hues before it plunges into the darkness. While the photograph above is a perfectly good example of a sunset in the Mediterranean sea in Alexandria, Egypt, it doesn’t think out of the box, making it look like the million other photographs people have taken of sunsets on the Internet. Thinking out of the box and taking a different approach to sunset photography is a learning process, one I find a lot of joy in. Here are my favorite 8 different ideas on how to shoot sunsets.

How to Shoot Sunsets #1. Include a heartbeat of the shot. A heartbeat can be anything that is alive with beating heart! From an animal to a human. It adds another dimension to the photograph; it tells a story. Like the three men in this photograph. I positioned the men on the left side of this shot while the sun was positioned on the other side, creating a balance to the story; man versus nature, for example.

How to Shoot Sunsets #2. A picture of a sunset doesn’t have to be a typical one. That’s why I don’t put my camera away if it’s going to be an overcast ending to the day. Clouds can add a dramatic effect to the scene, while the sun tries to peek through the clouds. Although you can’t see the sun setting clearly, the photograph displays an ambiance that tells a story or evokes an emotion. Including the small boat on the side of the photo also gives a depth to the photograph.

How to Shoot Sunsets #3. Add a foreground. It draws in the eye and adds a dimension to the photograph. If you look closely, there are people on the rocks watching the sunset. Again, this tells a story.

How to Shoot Sunsets #4. You don’t have to zoom in completely to shoot a sunset or shoot in a landscape orientation. Th portrait mode can work well with sunset shots too, while, again, adding a foreground avoids making the photograph one-dimensional or flat.

How to Shoot Sunsets #5. Silhouettes are one of the lovely things you can shoot during a sunset. These boats were floating peacefully while the sunset, silhouetted along with the rocks behind them. Pretty much everything can be a silhouette for your shot while the sun sets, including trees, people, fences, street lamps, umbrellas, and buildings.

How to Shoot Sunsets #6. Shoot during the golden hour, right before the sun sets. It creates a beautiful golden effect on everything it touches, turning the sea in this photograph into liquid gold. I also included a silhouette of swimmers in the sea to add depth to the photo and create a story. This example shows that you can add more than one idea in a sunset photograph, but not too many that it becomes too cluttered and chaotic. A picture of a sunset should have a calming, soothing effect as it does in reality.

How to Shoot Sunsets #7. Shoot an interesting subject on the horizon below the sun, leading the eye where the ball of fire is due to set. This creates a pathway for the eyes as it trails from the subject to the sun. If you’re lucky enough to catch a ship passing the sunset on the horizon, or perhaps a bird flying below it, snap away!

How to Shoot Sunsets #8. Play with props. My favorite prop to photograph during a sunset is the human hand, which creates an interesting silhouette. You can come up with many different types of poses while the optical illusion makes it look like you have the sun right in the palm of your hand.

If the sun isn’t set in the sea but in the mountains or over buildings where you are, you can still take a beautiful shot that marks the moment. The main thing is to be creative, revel in the special moment you are witnessing, and most importantly, have fun!

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Rain & Lessons from Nature

It’s only fair that I speak of the rain that graced Egypt’s dry and sandy terrain, after writing about the sandstorm. There must be an Arab proverb that states, “Don’t worry, where there is a sandstorm, rain will soon follow”, because thankfully supple raindrops fell like stardust from the heavens, purifying the air from the dust, sand, and pollution we had all endured for more than three days.

When I heard the pitter-patter sounds of raindrops falling on a nearby rooftop, I immediately sought out to the terrace to watch with delight as the rain cleansed the local mosque’s dusty dome. I could smell the heavy scent of rain from where I stood, watching it gracefully fall to the streets, watching the silent earth quench its thirst.

The rain continued on and off for most of the day. And the next. It was also bitterly cold, (made worse by the wind), cloudy and gloomy. This is London weather, I kept repeating to anyone who would listen. This is how cold it feels in November. (Because let’s face it, although it was bitterly cold, thanks to the wind, it was never going to get as cold as the subzero temperatures we faced in the United Kingdom).

Unbeknown to us, the recipe for appreciating a beautiful sunset was in the making all this time, as the sun made an appearance today, taking my breath away during the sunset.

I couldn’t believe the colors my eyes were going over in detail, caressing, almost drinking in, after so much darkness and gloominess. I could see textures in the sky again, patterns and formations in the clouds, rich variations of colors as the sun plunged into the horizon. I also couldn’t believe that I could see the Cairo Tower on the skyline again, and this clearly. It was usually obscured by smog, fog, or haze.

It is a beautiful realization, that I often learn so much from nature. I pick up so many fruitful signs. This week I saw that “Verily, with hardship, there is ease,” (Qur’an 94:6). Because indeed, after the sandstorm, we were blessed with rain that washed its traces away. And then, right in front of my very eyes, I was blessed to witness a beautiful sunset that made me forget the last few days ever happened.

(Until, that is, I look at the massive post-sandstorm clean-up operation I have to take on. But I pretend it never happened while I watch the sun gently sink into darkness, knowing full-well that it was really rising somewhere else).

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