Sunset is the main event. At 6:12pm, scores of us have a drink in hand, a friend nearby and a sense of anticipation. The big orange ball is dropping fast. Will there be a green flash?
But zoom your lens back to a wide angle of 24mm, focus on the sky, and you will notice the unique designs the clouds are making. Did anyone else notice? Looking through the lens with two Singh Ray filters holding back the exposure on the sky, you can see a painterly view of the evening sky over the Gulf of Mexico on February 3, a scene worth remembering.
When you are going to shoot a sunset, the first thing you have to do is choose your position. In Naples, Florida last evening, I surveyed the mostly clear sky, the flat horizon of the Gulf of Mexico, the crowd of sunset spectators on the beach and looked for some type of foreground that would add interest to the composition. I spotted a low palm tree and thought that I might use the palm fronds to create a sunstar and to add interest to what might otherwise be a view that was too plain. Do you think this works?
If I did not have water or distant land forms for a simple horizon, I would be looking for ways to simplify — not add interest — to the horizon. Every sunset is different: every location, foreground, every cloud formation, every day. While you may have an idea that there will or will not be clouds to reflect the orange and pink hues of the sunset, it is hard to know for sure. It is also hard to determine if there are or are not clouds right on the horizon, as you typically cannot see them until the sun (or moon) intersects with them. Will there be a green flash, only visible when no clouds block the sun’s last seconds above the horizon? As experienced as you get, it is nearly impossible to predict what the day’s sunset will bring.
My equipment: Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens, Nikon circular polarizer, Singh-Ray reverse graduated two-stop filter, Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head.