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Tips & Tricks for Great Outdoor Photography

Photo Tips for Shooting Sunrises, Sunsets, and Silhouettes!

They are my two favorite times to capture images. Mother Nature can put on quite a display. They are relatively easy to photograph, but I will give you some simple tips to make them better.

Other Points Of Interest

Here is a basic sunrise photo taken at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina. While Glenn was snoring away at camp, I rambled down to the beach.


Not bad. There is a nice reflection on the sand but it is kinda boring. I walked into the water to add a breaking wave with some spray off the lip.


Much better. It adds another point of interest and a sense of movement. Try to incorporate other objects in your image. Like a pier I found just down the beach.


If you wait until the wave recedes you will get a nice reflection on the sand.

Keep your eyes and ears open. While walking back to camp I heard an airplane. I looked up and then waited for the right moment.


A few minutes later I noticed a fishing boat out at sea. I waited for it to get in the reflection of the sun and zoomed in.


OK, I got lucky with the timing of those last two but that is why you need to pay attention to what's going on around you. Here is another example from Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina.


Basic sunrise. I noticed some driftwood up the beach and I used that in the next photo.


Adding other objects to your photo makes a big difference.


I always try to capture the sun's reflection when I am camping near water. While the sun still shines you can get this look like at Park Moabi on the Colorado River and at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah.

Park-Moabi Sand-Hollow-Sunset-2

On smaller bodies of water like the Van Duzen River near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California, I had to walk around to get the right angle.


You can always make your own reflection like I did at Anza Borrego State Park in Southern California.


Or you can use lens flare to spice it up like this photo from Fremont Peak State Park in California.


Once the sun sets it will cast a nice even glow over the water, often giving it a warm color. Below are photos from Timothy Lake in Oregon and Jenkinson Lake in California.

Timothy-Lake-Sunset-2 Camping-2006-64

A sunrise at Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho combines a pink glow with mountain reflections on the still water.


Use the sun and the water together to create memorable photographs. Play around with your camera settings to get the look you want.


Clouds are your friends when it comes to great shots. Or even smog if you live in the LA area like I do. Keep an eye on the clouds in the afternoon. If they are bunching up at the horizon you could be in store for a nice sunset.


Check out this sequence from Heron Lake State Park in New Mexico.

Heron-5 Heron-8 Heron-Lake-Sunset-3

Pretty neat. A fire near Jamestown, California provided this interesting photograph.


Some bizarre clouds at Oliver Lee State Park in New Mexico looked almost otherworldly.


So keep an eye on the clouds and you will be rewarded with great images.


Love them. A nice dark outline in the foreground of your picture will really make it pop. You might need to close down the aperture a stop or two from your camera's given exposure to make sure there is no detail on the silhouette. It needs to be black. So if your camera gives the exposure as 1/60 at F/4, change the shutter speed to 1/125 or the aperture to F/5.6 in manual mode. Or just use the exposure compensation feature. Check the view screen after a test shot and adjust as necessary.

Here is a photo from La Conner, Washington.


And one from Grayton Beach State Park in Florida.


If you look to the left of the palm in the foreground, there is a funky looking tree. I zoomed in and took this photo below.


Looks like a tree on the Serengeti Plain. A leopard lounge. Sometimes the simplest things look cool in a sunset silhouette. Below was my campsite at Rockhound State Park in New Mexico. Yes, that tent pole is bent. That was before I had my newer tent that blew up in Washington. I go through a lot of tents...


I thought that one of those tall plants might make a good photo against the sunset.


I like it. Kinda different. Nice colors. Since there were no clouds the photo needed something. So don't forget to incorporate silhouettes into your images.

Zoom Zoom Zoom

Most of my Sunrise/Sunset photos are taken at a wide angle to capture the scale of the scene. Like this one at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.


The old bridge on the left was acting like a dividing line between ocean and sky so I zoomed in a bit.


OK, but let's get closer.


Nice. Don't be afraid to use your zoom for a different perspective. Speaking of which:

A Different Perspective

Sometimes creating a great photograph is as easy as changing your shooting position. Below is a sunrise photo from Park Moabi on the Colorado River near Needles, California.


I like everything about it. It has most of the tips I have talked about in this blog post. Reflections, other points of interest, silhouettes, no clouds but it's all good. My tent was pitched just behind me so I changed my perspective.


I went in my tent, lay down, and took another photo. I love that one. The tent frames the image and grounds it. I went back to sleep.

If any of these tips help you, great. But it doesn't really matter. Just watching and enjoying sunrises and sunsets is it's own reward.

Regards, Park Ranger


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