How to Shoot Sunsets

African sunset on safari

Spectacular sunsets are truly soul-stirring. Natural art in living colour, they reflect our cosmic connection to all creation and can easily stir creativity within us too, inspiring us to capture the fleeting magic to share with friends and feed our memories. Time and place are clearly crucial factors to keep in mind, especially since the sun finally slips so swiftly below the horizon. Having been blessed with extensive travel in the Southern African bushveld, we’ve also been treated to many breath-taking sunsets, such as this one at the gorgeous Ant’s Hill game lodge in the Waterberg.

In terms of settings, it pays to play a bit. Typically with landscapes, you would select a high aperture of F22.0 in order to keep everything in focus. In the low light scenario of a sunset, that would necessitate the use of a tripod as you would need a long exposure and slow shutter speed like 1/30 sec to allow sufficient light into your shot. By contrast, this series of images was taken with our Nikon D3 camera on aperture priority of F4.0, with a view to utilizing a shallow depth of field to creative effect. The key thing here is to select the focal point with care, such as the game drive vehicle above and branches below.

The above photo was taken with our 28 – 70mm lens, focal length of 28mm, ISO 1600, F4.0 and 1/8000 sec shutter speed, while the one below was shot at a focal length of 70mm and ISO 800, with the same F stop and shutter speed. It’s also worth testing exposure settings, preferably under exposing by a few stops to enhance the rich colours of the sky.

Branches at sunset

As with much photography, especially out in nature, it’s inspirational to move around and try a range of perspectives and angles, like lying flat on your stomach to make the most of interesting silhouettes.

Sunset in South Africa

Various viewpoints can contribute to strikingly different scenes, as you can see from this selection of photos, all taken within moments of each other, the above and below photos using similar settings to the one before.

Wild grasses at sunset

Zooming in for another alternative, here’s a final pic of the same sunset, shot using our 200 – 400mm lens at a focal length of 400mm, F4.0, ISO 200 and 1/640 sec. Creative options are really unlimited, except by the time available before the sun disappears and night settles in. Then we can turn our attention to the stars, which will be the subject of another article. In the meantime, have fun with the sun and happy shooting 🙂

Dramatic African Sunset

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