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.