HOW TO SHOOT SUN­SETS I N S AT U R AT E D C O L O U R

Fol­low­ing a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion that saw the pho­tog­ra­pher shoot ev­ery sun­rise and sun­set for an en­tire month, Tal­man Mad­sen gives us the low-down on how to shoot stun­ning skies

New Zealand D-Photo - - HOW TO | TALMAN MADSEN - Fol­low Tal­man’s ad­ven­tures across New Zealand and over­seas: /tal­man /tal­man­mad­sen

As we’ve es­tab­lished, op­por­tu­ni­ties to shoot a re­ally great sun­rise or sun­set don’t come around that of­ten, so it’s im­por­tant that we’re pre­pared and ready to shoot when they do. It’s all about mak­ing the most of th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties when they do arise.

PREPA­RA­TION I per­son­ally love shoot­ing moun­tains and other wilder­ness lo­ca­tions; wide open spa­ces that have an awe­some fore­ground, while leav­ing space for the dra­matic sky to be the fea­ture. When de­cid­ing on a lo­ca­tion, make sure that your point of in­ter­est lines up with the sun­rise/ sun­set. I use apps like Pho­toPills and The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Ephe­meris to plan my com­po­si­tion, which en­sures that my point of in­ter­est lines up with the sky that I’m hop­ing to cap­ture. If you’re plan­ning to shoot a sun­rise, and you’re un­fa­mil­iar with the lay of the land, it’s a good idea to scout the lo­ca­tion for any ob­sta­cles and to fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the ter­rain, as you’ll of­ten be ar­riv­ing in the dark. When on a pho­tog­ra­phy trip, I shoot ev­ery sun­rise and sun­set no mat­ter how dire the out­look may be, while, when I’m at home, I gen­er­ally wait un­til con­di­tions are look­ing like they could pro­duce some­thing in­cred­i­ble. When de­cid­ing whether to go out, I first look at the de­tailed cloud stats on yr.no (a Nor­we­gian weather web­site) — usu­ally, I’m look­ing for lots of high cloud, fol­lowed by good lev­els of mid cloud and some low cloud. Cloud cover is im­por­tant — you want enough so that you’re go­ing to get some­thing to re­flect the colour, but not so much that noth­ing can get through. Usu­ally, con­di­tions are ideal to cap­ture dra­matic skies when there’s an in­com­ing storm, so, although logic may sug­gest other­wise, take a chance and head out. There’s noth­ing quite like that feel­ing you get deep within when the sky erupts into a dra­matic bril­liance of colours, and you’re com­pletely set up, cam­era in hand, and ready to cap­ture Mother Na­ture in all her glory! Th­ese mo­ments don’t come of­ten, though. In Jan­uary, I was need­ing a challenge to push my pho­tog­ra­phy to the next level, so I made it my mis­sion to pho­to­graph ev­ery sun­rise and sun­set for a month, each at a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion. I don’t know what I was think­ing when I com­mit­ted. It was a crazy month, with next to no sleep (don’t try this in sum­mer, folks). How­ever, it was all worth it for some of the epic pho­tos that I got and for the ways in which I de­vel­oped as a pho­tog­ra­pher over this time. All said and done, I walked away with three sun­rises/sun­sets that were com­pletely off the Richter scale, a few more that were still re­ally de­cent, and a whole lot of duds!

to de­crease your shut­ter speed, al­low­ing for a greater in­ten­sity of colours and a sof t flow­ing ef fect on ar­eas of move­ment, such as the sk y or wa­ter. An­other tech­nique to try when the sit­u­a­tion calls for it is to take mul­ti­ple ex­po­sures and ad­just the ex­po­sure dif­fer­ently in each, com­monly re­ferred to as ‘brack­et­ing’. Most mod­ern cam­eras have an in­ter­nal brack­et­ing shoot­ing mode that will cap­ture im­ages at var­i­ous shut­ter speeds to ex­pose each area of an im­age cor­rectly. If your cam­era does not do this, it’s easy enough to shoot two to three im­ages at pro­gres­sively longer shut­ter speeds — this will cap­ture de­tail in the shad­ows that you can then use later on to cre­ate an evenly ex­posed im­age. Don’t for­get to take a mo­ment when it’s all go­ing off to breathe and soak it in, and it is al­ways sat­is­fy­ing to let your ex­cite­ment spill over with a big loud ‘wa­hoo!’ the im­age, I know that I’ll be able to pull more de­tail out of the shad­ows — so don’t worry if your im­age looks quite dark. When us­ing this method, it’s im­por­tant that you aren’t clip­ping ei­ther your whites or your blacks — the best way to en­sure this is by checking your cam­era’s his­togram. When done cor­rectly, the curve will gen­er­ally be to­wards the left of the his­togram — make sure that there are no spikes on ei­ther end. If there are, you’ve clipped and lost de­tail, and you will need to change your shut­ter speed and try again. I per­son­ally don’t use many fil­ters, but a sof t grad can be help­ful when shoot­ing th­ese high dy­namic range (HDR) scenes, be­cause it dark­ens the sk y, al­low­ing you to ex­pose for a longer time with­out blow­ing out the sk y. This re­sults in more fore­ground de­tail, while still achiev­ing a nat­u­ral-look­ing im­age. You can also use a 10-stop (or sim­i­lar) fil­ter

ON LO­CA­TION I al­ways aim to get to my lo­ca­tion one to two hours be­fore the big event. It is al­ways best to make sure that you leave plenty of time to get there, set up, de­cide on your com­po­si­tion, and take some test shots. When shoot­ing dra­matic skies, I gen­er­ally use an f-stop be­tween eight and 11, a low ISO, and then ad­just my shut­ter speed ac­cord­ingly. In low-light sit­u­a­tions, it be­comes im­per­a­tive that you have a tri­pod to en­sure that you can use longer ex­po­sure times. The hard­est part about shoot­ing th­ese in­tense skies is get­ting an im­age where the ex­po­sure re­flects that which is true to your eye. If shoot­ing in auto mode, the cam­era will gen­er­ally ex­pose the en­tire scene, re­sult­ing in a blown-out sky with no de­tail what­so­ever. To best cap­ture the scene, I al­ways ‘ex­pose for the sky’ — mean­ing that, when di­alling in the shut­ter speed, I un­der­ex­pose the im­age as a whole to cap­ture the de­tail in the sky as true to eye as pos­si­ble. Later on when I process

POST PROCESSING So, you have taken your pho­tos, al­most lost your voice from all the ex­cited scream­ing and yelling, and are now ready to process your im­ages. The ul­ti­mate goal is to en­hance the scene while re­tain­ing the in­tegrity of the im­age, en­sur­ing that it is as true to eye as pos­si­ble. I shoot with a Sony α7R II, which has great dy­namic range; this al­lows me to pull a lot of de­tail out of the shad­ows. I per­son­ally don’t like the HDR look in im­ages, and think that it’s im­por­tant not to go too over­board when pulling up your shad­ows, as you end up with a flat-look­ing im­age. Re­mem­ber, con­trast is still your friend and cre­ates depth in your im­age. Choos­ing to leave ar­eas of an im­age dark will add to the mys­tery and awe of your photo. A com­mon is­sue in processing oc­curs when peo­ple overuse the sat­u­ra­tion slider. When you get that truly cracker im­age, it gen­er­ally doesn’t need too much done to it. The main ad­just­ments I usu­ally make in­volve ad­just­ments to the white bal­ance to en­sure that the bal­ance be­tween the blues and yel­lows is cor­rect. Of­ten, less is more; if you start to see ‘halo­ing’, band­ing, or weird colours, you have prob­a­bly gone too far. I have a per­sonal rule not to ever share an im­age the day I take it, be­cause, when I do, I of­ten find that I rush my processing and am later on un­happy with the im­age. I tend to process the im­age and then sit on it — I like to come back to it with fresh eyes at least two to three times. I will of­ten wait months be­fore shar­ing an im­age, choos­ing in­stead to en­joy it my­self be­fore shar­ing it with the world! Fi­nally, al­ways re­mem­ber that ‘pho­tog­ra­phy’ is a verb — so get out there and do it!

SONY A7R II, ZEISS BATIS 18MM F/2.8 LENS, 18MM, 1/3S, F/11, ISO 50 The low lev­els of wa­ter in Lake Wanaka al­lowed me to set my tri­pod at ground level, im­me­di­ately in front of a pud­dle to cap­ture the fa­mous ‘ Wanaka Tree’ with a re­flec­tion. Even though we were at the lake edge for over an hour be­fore sun­rise, we were still the sec­ond group of peo­ple to ar­rive

SONY A7R II, SONY VARIO-TESSAR T* FE 24–70MM F/4 ZA OSS LENS, 70MM, 3.2S, F/11, ISO 50 This sun­rise was one for the me­mory books — it’s not of­ten that one gets to see such a wide ar­ray of colours all at once in the sky. In this sit­u­a­tion, get­ting up high al­lowed me to cap­ture more of the colour range than I would have had I been down lower; prepa­ra­tion played a key part in cap­tur­ing this im­age

SONY A7R II, ZEISS BATIS 18MM F/2.8 LENS, 1/5S, F/11, ISO 50 (THREE IM­AGE BLEND) For this im­age, I de­cided to bracket nine im­ages. I later chose three be­fore blend­ing them in Light­room. This gave me greater con­trol over the dy­namic range be­tween the shad­ows and the high­lights, en­abling me to cre­ate a scene that bet­ter re­flected what I could see with the naked eye

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