Photographing a Sunset, Beaufort, Australia

A spectacular sunset near the town of Beaufort on the Western Highway in Victoria, Australia

Nikon D800e camera and Nikon 24-120mm f4 lens @ 82mm. Seven image composite, 1/60 to 1 second, @ f11 ISO 100

I just love sunsets. So beautiful to behold, yet so difficult to photograph. Here’s a list of the difficulties you’re likely to experience photographing them:

  • Fleeting: if you don’t get on with it this daily miracle of nature will be over before you’ve got your camera set and ready to record the event.
  • Low light levels so difficult to record without a tripod or a high ISO.
  • Often an extremely high contrast situation where the brightness range is beyond what your camera’s sensor is capable of recording in a single exposure.

The Long Return

The above photo was made a little way outside of the small town of Beaufort on the Western Highway between Adelaide and Melbourne. On my last two trips home to see my mum in Hamilton, my hometown in Western Victoria, I’ve diverted from my usual road back to the big smoke, turning off at Glen Thompson, and traveling onto Melbourne via Willaura, Ararat and Beaufort. Despite what I was told, this is a significantly longer trip, both in time and kilometers. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting, albeit considerably drier, alternative to my usual route.

The parched landscape didn’t seem to have had much relief since my last trip after the Australia Day weekend (my birthday) at the end of January. I did the trip back in heat measuring 45 degrees Celsius. I had the car’s air conditioning on almost all the way, something I’ve never had to do, even when driving all the way down from Darwin to Melbourne a number of years ago.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) to the Rescue

On this second trip I kept my eye out for interesting photo opportunities throughout the trip. Unfortunately the light was dull, flat and very uninspiring. As sunset approach I started to actively look for opportunities. I could see the sky light up in my car’s rear vision mirror but couldn’t find a decent composition. A side road suddenly appeared and I took it and pulled the car over to make the above image. The contrast (i.e., Scene Brightness Range) was so extreme I had to make a series of exposures which were later combined into a single composite image.

Within a few minutes the light was all but gone. Driving back towards the Highway I looked over in the opposite direction and saw a far more interesting scene. Photographing in this direction would allow me to photograph the landscape bathed in the beautiful warm light of the setting sun. Alas, by the time I saw it, the light was gone. If only I’d found this place ten minutes earlier. But all is not lost as I’ve recorded the location and plan to stop there well before sunset while returning from my next trip back home. It’s just another great reason for heading home again, soon.

The Brighter the Light the Darker the Shadows Will Photograph

Never were truer words spoken, if I may be so bold, at least in relation to photography. Please think carefully on those words and let them seep into your consciousness. Accept the statement as fact and understand how it is the defining factor that determines the success, or otherwise, of many of your photos.

Horizon Placement

I wanted to keep some of the landscape in the image to both suggest the scale of the wondrous site above me and also to help tell the story of the parched landscape. Forget about the ⅓ to ⅔ division of the landscape you may have heard about in photography or, for that matter, painting 101. Place the horizon where it needs to be to tell the story you want to tell.

Night Photography in the City of Melbourne Workshop

I only expect to be running one or two more of these workshops before I begin my long winter hibernation. There are still places available on tomorrow night’s workshop. That’s right, Wednesday, March 26. You can check out all the details HERE.

Notification of your online booking and payment will come through to me quickly and I’II be able to send you your Special eBook on Night Photography before the workshop begins. I hope to see you there. Any questions please contact me directly.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography