Enjoying Sunset Photography

Summer thunderstorms usually start by midday here in Southern Colorado.  The clouds begin to build and the monsoon rains come in fast and furious. And clouds mean SUNSET Photography.  Although elusive, when the clouds are in “full bloom” at around 8pm in July, I grab my camera or iPhone.   I think a good workflow, when the clouds are creating a broad range of color throughout the sky, is to find something to put at the bottom of the frame: trees, a ridge line, people, to create a silhouette.  When the star of the show is a particular cloud formation, I tend to think of the photo as a portrait of light and color and shape.  I don’t include any reference to the land in some photos.  I will often overexpose slightly to make sure the camera meter doesn’t make the image too dark.  But I also keep an eye out on the LCD for “hot spots” of overexposure in the highlights.  A wide angle lens will sometimes give a feeling of the clouds moving in the scene too.  My wide angle lens for backpacking is the Nikon 16-85mm.  When hiking a short distance my wide angle lens is the 12-24mm.  Here are a few samples.

Each evening while camping at 12,600 feet in the San Juan Mountains I enjoyed a variety of sunlit clouds as the storms cleared before dark. The Elusive Sunset. Exposure: f8@250/ISO 160 ©Kit Frost

I like to show some detail in the “silhouette” at the bottom of the frame if it adds to the composition. In this case the snow in July was fun to include. Exposure f5.6@125/ISO 320. If you compare this sky to the one above you can see the the slower shutter speed in this image blurred the clouds a bit.  They were moving fast.  ©Kit Frost

Shot with my iPhone, I locked focus on the dark edge of Perins peak and then re-composed the image to show the big sky. Subtle color sometimes works in the image. ©Kit Frost

Shot with my iPhone 4S, the camera chose F2.4 at 1/60 of a second. I locked focus and metering on the subtle color at the bottom of the cloud because I wanted to hold detail there. ©Kit Frost

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