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BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Taking Sunset and Sunrise Photos

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Photography Question 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
 

Sunrise and Sunset: Predicting Colors


Hi Everyone,
Is there any way to predict the days in which the sky would show beautiful colors at sunrise or sunset? I guess there might be a way using weather forecast reports to expect it … don't really know. Thanks!

5/2/2007 2:48:38 AM

 
W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Hi Ali,
There are many factors affecting the colors at sunrise and sunset: what is the altitude of the viewer, what is the air density in the various air layers, what is the air humidity in the various air layers, how much DUST is there in the air in the various layers, how are different air layers interacting with eachother, etc. etc. It also varies widely per viewpoint/point of observation. So general predictions are useless anyway. Have fun!

5/2/2007 4:49:41 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Ali –
I really love shooting sunrise and sunset images, so I might have a few ideas to share with you. First, I have found that when the forecast calls for partly cloudy/partly sunny days that the sunrises/sunsets tend to be nicer. On a perfectly clear day, the sunrise can be pretty dull. The presence of clouds, as long as they are not heavy, can lend real atmosphere to any shot. Second; as W points out, there are many variables that determine when a sunrise will be the most colorful. I live on the coast and have found that sunrises over the ocean can be spectacular because of the reflection on the water. Even on stormy days and sometimes because the day is stormy, the light can be amazing. If you do not live near the ocean, try to find a body of water where the sun might reflect as it rises. If this is not practical, consider shooting a sunrise over hills or mountains; or through a stand of trees. A sunrise/sunset over a dull background will result in a dull image. Finally, just like in many things, learning how the light changes in your area according to weather and season variables will teach you how to determine when the best sunrises will occur.
It is important to know how to correctly determine exposure when shooting a sunrise/sunset. Keep in mind that you do not want to directly take a meter reading from the area right next to the rising sun. Instead, take your reading on a nearby patch of sky and set your exposure accordingly. If over water, take your reading from water that is indirectly lit by the sun. If shooting film – bracket by ½ to 1 full stop. I do this even when shooting digital, although in digital at least I can quickly check my exposure. Also, sometimes the best color and light is just before sunrise or just after sunset.
I hope this helps.
Irene

5/2/2007 5:32:50 AM

 
Aimeedphotography D. 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/9/2007
  Like Irene was saying your best bet would be to check the forcast ahead of time. Partly cloudy conditions in morning? Perfect! If that were the case do like Irene was saying and venture to hills and mountains to make a good profile and try capture a silhouette. So you got the clouds, the hills, now all you need are the vibrant colors. Sometimes it might not happen, but if your dead set on getting a "WOW" sunrise photo then as long as you shoot the silhouette then do the following steps: Upload your photos to you computer and go to "Image" (in Adobe CS2) then "Adjustments" then "Color Balance" and play around. That will get the end product if mother nature isn't willing.

Or you could always go old school and put a filter on your lense! That'll do the trick too.

But hopefully you won't have to go to all the trouble! Have fun!

5/2/2007 10:34:45 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  There is one element that has not been covered. Capturing the colors of sunrise/sunset is no different than any other aspect of photography. If you want the best results, you have to work for them. In this case, in order to understand the factors affecting the quality of a sunrise you need to get up long before the sunrise (check your local paper or Google sunrise/sunset for your area); head out to where you hope to see the best sunrise and then fail. I know it sounds a little odd; however, the only way that I learned how to predict good sunrise/sunset scenes was by failing to capture what I wanted the first time. You have to get there early because the best color is often just before and immediately after the sun comes up. If you are not ready you can miss the show completely. Yes, you can adjust colors in Photoshop and/or use filters, but the best images usually come from repeated attempts and finally learning what works best for you, in your chosen scene. As much as I like PS and as much as I use it, I still hate spending time in front of the monitor trying to correct a fault that could have been done better in the field. Just my two cents more!
Irene

5/2/2007 1:01:26 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  The best sunsets seem to occur after a heavy early evening thunderstorm passes from west to east. The setting sun will ignite the residual clouds into firey bands of red and orange if the timing is just right. You can also count on a great rainbow appearing in the eastern sky during these conditions.
In the heat of summer, a thick atmospheric haze will help to accentuate both sunrises and sunsets ... especially near urban areas where smog comes into play.

5/2/2007 7:31:43 PM

 
Aimeedphotography D. 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/9/2007
  So true Irene! I've also learned trial and error brings best results!

5/2/2007 7:39:45 PM

 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
  Wow.... Thnx very much guys... It's helpful anyway

The problem is that I'm far away from any open space so I have to know first how is it gonna be or I'll travel for a long distance for nothing...
but hey ... Good things come to those who wait ...:)

5/3/2007 1:29:58 AM

 
W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Then don't go travel for nothing: make it a vacation for a few days, or a short week. You'll have a chance to shoot the sunrise AND the sunset EVERY day.
And like Irene says, you will NEED more than one opportunity for a good sunrise anyway.

Good luck!

5/3/2007 3:49:10 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  i'll go with bob on this.storm fronts,high humidity,dust/pollutants give the best results.
do not plan a vacation just for that purpose unless your the best meteoroligist known.
there are so many factors and just being there is not one of them.
yet irene made a very good point.failure.now lets put that into perspective.it's like taking a class.
on the days you think it's stiffling,the heat and humidity are oppressive,very good time.
if you think it's so nice and it's cooled off,no.
go out and shoot when the heat and humidity will melt those crayons in photoshop.maybe take an airbrush class.
geeee.
never focus or meter off the sun.blap.put the sun 3/5ths in the scene.just right or left.never centered.but with expierence,as mentioned,the orb.big giant fireball.
best of luck,sam

5/3/2007 9:30:21 PM

 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
  Wow guys…. I really can't thank U enough… This is really very helpful n very kind of U
I live in Egypt, Irene…Far from the sea in the center of the capital, Cairo… not a very romantic place in the traditional way. But U know what? I have always wanted to live by the sea, just like U do. I hope one day I'll have enough money to buy a house by the sea or the ocean with few people around… that's the way I really wanna spend the rest of my life, but not yet. I have to have enough money to give up the luxurious expensive city life …a paradox. Any way … I believe in trial and error, learning is a feedback process in fact. And I'm always ready on the set enough time before the event. But as an amateur I'm trying to enrich my knowledge from experienced photographers like yourself. And I'm trying to benefit from my time to the max cause my college is very time consuming.
Sorry that I'm slow in responses
Thnx again guys W. , Irene, Aimee, Bob and Samuel

5/5/2007 5:41:03 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Ali –

I had to smile reading your post! I suspect that it is a human characteristic to always want to be someplace other than where we are. I would love to see Cairo and all of Egypt, in fact, most of that area of the world. I live on the ocean and long for the mountains – you live in the city and long for the sea. Ah, the paradoxes of being human! All kidding aside, I would think that you would have lots of wonderful backgrounds for a sunrise image. Forgive my geographic ignorance, but are you near any of the historic sites that are well known around the world? If so, they might make a nice background for a sunrise image.

Well, I hope that you enjoy learning how to best photograph your own area and that learning remains fun and rewarding. Post some of your images when you get time.

Irene

5/5/2007 6:27:16 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Irene brought up an excellent point: Always think ahead and plan your foreground elements. A unique geological structure, a tree or interesting shrub, a distant mountain range or as Irene mentioned, something recognizable that's regional or historic should be composed in the foreground.
This key element can play the role of "subject" for your photograph and will add a point of interest to that wonderful sunrise or sunset.
(You will however, need to illuminate foreground elements with fill-flash unless you are intending to create silhouettes.)
Bob

5/5/2007 4:56:13 PM

 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
 
 
 
Yes Irene U R right... it's a fundamental characteristic of Homo sapiens ... still I WANNA live by the sea ... not only find an interesting background for my shots...I just feel tired of city life... although it gets interesting sometimes
I live in EGYPT Irene... if U would revise the UNESCO statistics U would find that Egypt contains over half of the world's monuments and archeaologically active sites, mostly burried under cities or water. An endless treasure of beauty.
But I thank U for pointing out anyway.
These are some of my shots, but remember I'm STILL an AMATEUR so don't be hard on me. by the way... U have an EXTREMELY BEAUTIFUL gallry Irene. But I doubt U have tried ur luck in contests, why is that?
Thnx too Bob

5/6/2007 9:55:30 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  hey ali,
one of those photos was a finalist.amateur.
your area usually doesn't exceed 15-20% humidity.not really good for great colors.
I used to go out a lot and take photos but after a few years it got to be where you can walk outside an hour before sunset and make a good decision.yes or no.
ther are no mountains,waterfalls or large bodies of water around here.i've resided in other states and been overseas,but for me there is no place like home.i can still visit the 3 room schoolhouse I attended in 1955.gawd.the bank I use was built in 1895.
amateurs,yes amateurs can take very good photos.don't think mistakes and fair shots/photos are limited to amateurs.never forget knowledge in the wrong hands is dangerous and not beneficial to others seeking just to gain that knowledge just to know.
sam

5/6/2007 8:43:26 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Ali – your images are fine; you seem to have a good eye for interesting angles and composition. One thing though – and keep in mind this is just my opinion – your color seem over saturated on my monitor. Do you up the color in PS or other editing program? If so, you might want to back off just a tad. Otherwise, the images are nice.

Yes, I knew that you lived in Egypt, I just am unsure of the location for many of the amazing historic features that I have read about – sites such as the pyramids and the sphinx, etc. I would think that these would make marvelous subjects for photographing the sun at different angles. How about the delta area – are you near there and if so, wouldn’t this make a good background? As I said, like many in America, my knowledge of geography outside of North America, is pathetic!

Thank you for the compliment on my gallery. As to why I have not entered the contests; this is somewhat complicated. Until recently I have not felt that my work is of contest quality. I am thinking of entering in the nature or animal category.

Good luck in your image making.

Irene

5/7/2007 3:47:22 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  so what do you say.
painted,oversharping?amateur.
but I got a lesson from another member.
to let it go and not have an opinion,that a capture is a capture.wether tainted and had to hit the makeup room,it's a photo.
maybe it was tolerating pompous something.
i must be getting old timers.
in my generation we called it shucking and jiveing
not a personal attack ali,an opinion,sam

5/7/2007 6:18:34 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  If you knew more about film types you'd know more about how little there is to know in these misdirected photoshop/film is/ain't sermons.

Back to the flood filter

5/8/2007 3:52:22 AM

 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
  You're absolutely right Sam... and I'm gonna do my best to practice ur tips.And yes I believe U can take very beautiful shots if U have a good eye and ANY camera, but practice makes perfect.U too have a GREAAAAAT gallry... yet U didn't enter a contest apparently. By tjhe way... did U try some of ur portraits in B&W, I think they r gonna rock, and I assure U I have seen some winners within ur gallery. At last... was ur last post in English?
Irene... yes I had to up the colors in those 2 photos. They weren't taken by my current Canon A530 but with a very bad Benque c310..... very cheap. I didn't know much then about photography nor cameras. So I had to extensively correct the images on my PSCS2.They are a bit saturated but if they are VERY then I think there might be smth with my monitor.
I generally tend to do alot of work on most of my shots... the cause is that I used to paint oil pastel, when I had 2 stop for the tight time schedule in college I felt bad... so I went with a compensation ... Photography(quick) and post processing n (funny...nearest to painting).
by the way... these 2 colored posted images were the first shots I ever shot in my entire life.And for God's sake... have some guts and enter the contest, what r u gonna lose anyway. I think U 2 R gonna get smth in the contest.
Thnx again
Ali

5/8/2007 9:25:17 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  yes ali,it was in my english.kinda like the cliff notes of rambling.
gregory knows i'm a troublemaker,yet still bites some of the time.as in fishing,not the other.
your photos are your photos ali,to do with as you will.as in all cases,such as my opinion,it's just one.mine.there might be a thousand that disagree,but so far,even here,i can say what I think.
however,since you grew up in such historic a place,which we all had to study in history classand were given to believe it was somewhat the cradle of civilization,it all may seem old hat to you.still your vision and dream is to avoid all that and find a place on the ocean,with a few to share the surroundings,sunsets,tranquility and just maybe a slower pace where thoughts can be collected.my best in your search.
I won't be looking over your shoulder at your monitor,maybe a peek here and there.
sometimes knowledge is something we really didn't want.the grass really greener on your side of the fence as some may believe?
life is a contest,i hope your entry of that ocean side home becomes a finalist,sam

5/9/2007 7:18:50 PM

 
Ali M. Abougazia
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2007
 
 
 
Thnx again Sam... ur words means alot to me

5/11/2007 6:48:20 AM

 
Frank M. Melchior

member since: 10/17/2005
  Don't forget the moon as an added element, check the moon schedule in your paper, where I live, the full moon normally rises around sunset.

Frank

5/11/2007 9:49:52 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  ah frank,the moon is a great inclusion.but doesen't rise at that given time.so if ali could give us the full moon over these historic sites,as we perceive them,ahh.
but why should ali give us what we wish to percieve?
a nice night here ali,80 some percent humidity,took some shots of the setting sun behind an old silo.
still ali,where some of us brush off the south bound train blowing it's whistle.20 miles off,and not listening.
really not sure but I think pretence is a contest.ok

5/11/2007 7:31:28 PM

 

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