Before & After: sunset contrails

Before & After

I love photographing sunsets and sunrises. Luckily, I live in an area where there are many beautiful locations, all on their own, to capture these sky shots.

When editing these, I try to keep it to a minimum, usually only altering the image enough so that it conveys, as closely as I can, the sunset I remember seeing. These edits are subtle, I lightened the sky, darkened the contrails, and cropped out some of the beach, but it looks more like the actual night sky.

One of my worst photography habits is to only take one or two shots of a given image. I have a digital camera and two media cards that holds in excess of 1,000 images each, and three battery packs. It’s not like I don’t have the space or power to take more.

Ideally, I would bracket my shots… a fall back to my film photography days. Bracketing means taking minimally three photos of the same shot, but changing the f-stop, or shutter speed – one up, one down – with each subsequent shot. Even if you’re using the auto settings on your camera, you call still do a similar thing.

Take one shot on auto, one on landscape, one on action, or any other combination. The differences you see may not be all that significant, but every once in a while, the changes are striking. If you’re more comfortable using your semi-auto settings, using Aperture or Shutter settings, try bracketing these to get a different look to your photo.

With these sunset shots, other than adjust my shutter speed and/or aperture settings due to the low light of dusk, I could have changed the ISO to a higher number. ISO also tracks back to film photography and film speed. The lower the available light, use a higher ISO number. The trade-off is that with an ISO of 3200, 1600, or even 800, it’s possible to photograph in very low light, but it can also mean noise on the image, or a dark, grainy look. This can be a very attractive effect, so noise is not always a bad thing.

Often times, I set up a tripod so I can adjust ISO, aperture and/or the shutter speed and eliminate as much noise, and shake as possible, letting me get as clear an image as I can. The particular camera I use doesn’t have a shutter cable releases option. A feature I would have preferred. Instead, I set the timer for a 10-second delay, then step away from the tripod.

The nice thing about digital cameras is that if we don’t like a particular photo, we can delete it in camera. We have the luxury of taking tons of photos to get that one perfect shot. This advantage gives us the opportunity to play around with the auto and semi-auto, if you’re brave – manual – settings without having to pay for 100s of print photos. Have fun with your camera, get to know it, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Camera: Nikon D60
Setting: Priority
Lens: 35-55mm
Editing: Picnik
Effects: crop, resize, increase color saturation (+15), added watermark.

Last week, Jen also included her exif info, I’m following her lead and including mine for this shot. If you don’t remember your settings and use Picnik editing program, you can find this info under Action, just above your saved image.

Exposure: 1/80
Aperture: f/4.5
ISO: 100
Flash: none

If you’re playing along, post your Before Straight out of Camera shots along with your After edited images. Click on Mr. Linky to add your post URL, then visit the other participants offering constructive appraisals of their photos and editing. For more info, check out the Before & After page on the top nav bar to find how to join the fun.

5 thoughts on “Before & After: sunset contrails

  1. Oh this is a neat idea. I love the slight changes and how it really impacts the picture. I’ve started shooting continual knowing that it helps me get a better shot eventually. I’m not quite ready to play along with this one – I don’t know how to edit my pics yet – but I’m definitely going to read along to better learn how to take better pictures. Love it, Tara!


  2. I love your tip. I know about bracket shots but for some reason almost never do it. I need to get into the habit – just like I need to get into the habit of finding places around here to do actual photo walks…I’m so lazy sometimes *lol*

    I like what you did with the photo, especilly with the way the colors came out in the beach in the after. Such a stronger pop of the color. I do the same thing w/ sunsets & rises. Try to keep the alteration minimal…focusing simply on the colors.


  3. I love the after shot on this one; I really love the slight color change, it’s beautiful! Good choice there. I think that I REALLY need to invest in a tripod even with my “learning” camera because I am SO SHAKY and I found recently that even the WIND will play a factor in my shots which is annoying. I’m not very good at taking sunset/sunrise shots yet. I just can’t seem to find the best “focal” point.


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