This image was taken at Burnham Overy Staithe along the North Norfolk Coast on Wednesday 20th May 2015 during a week off work. Typically I focus on a theme for my photography and this time I wanted to focus on sunsets and the night sky and possibly capturing an aurora if there was an opportunity to do so.
Because the sunsets quite late this time of year around 9pm the sky does not get completely dark till midnight which for me it too late especially when I have an hours drive home and ended up just capturing a couple of sunsets during the week.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast over the week I was looking for sunny spells conditions to see if there were an opportunity of the sun setting and clouds to create an interesting sky with the sun changing the colour of the clouds and possibly breaking through them. Weather that week was perfect for photography with storms creating interesting skies.
My reasons for choosing this location was for a few reasons. Firstly I had not visited this part of the Norfolk Coastline before so was somewhere new to explore. Secondly it was recommended for night photography. Thirdly I wanted to visit the coast at least once on my week off.
Being warned not to park on the dirt/sandy flat further into the quayside as it floods at high tide I parked on the embankment just off the roadside. When visiting coastal areas I typically wear wellies but mine turned out to be useless with one of them being split which meant I had to be more careful to avoiding ending up with wet feet.
I soon started to walk along the coastal path which I assumes leads to the beach. While walking along I am constantly looking all around to find potential images such as boats and the general shapes and curves of the landscape and taking test shots to see what is possible. At this point the tide was out and all the boats were sitting on the sand, not researching the tide times I had no idea on what the conditions will be once the sun would start to set.
One thing I have learned in photography is that once you have found something of interest it's best to stay in one spot. Sunrise and sunset is so short you have very little time to set up to be ready for the show which is why I arrived early. It is better to come away with one good image than nothing because you were rushing around.
While waiting for the sun to set I was previewing different angles along the bank of the waterway,moving in either direction avoiding any obstructions such as bushes and signs. In this case there was another smaller craft to the left which I wanted left out of the picture as their is a photographic tip of having "odds". When capturing flowers for example you want 1,3,5 flower heads, it's just one of the many photographic "rules".
Once I had framed the image in the viewfinder I locked down the camera in that position with a tripod to avoid taking a blurry image due to the camera moving. To ensure there was going to be enough information I decided to bracket the images to combine into an HDR file using Lightroom 6 which I will include a YouTube tutorial below. I find using HDR is very useful to landscape images by capturing detail in the sky and the ground.
Using both a Nikon D7100 and Fuji X-E1 to compare the bracketing features and to see if I could live with just the Fuji to benefit from the lighter weight. The Nikon has much better bracketing features with taking upto 5 images with +/- 2 stops or 3 images with +/- 3 stops in quick succession with the camera in timer mode.
The Fuji can only take 3 images +/- 1 stop which for me limits its use for HDR, however the 35mm lens for the Fuji is the best lens I own over the Nikon and Fuji so I try and use that where I can. Taking bracketed images with the Fuji is certainly possible and I use it all the time but I cannot see why Fuji is less advanced, maybe the newer Fuji cameras are better?
Using Lightroom 6 I merged the files using the new inbuilt HDR feature which now avoids the interaction with Photoshop which is handy. Using a similar method to the below YouTube tutorial I eventually achieved these results which I think produced interesting images that I am happy with making my trip out worthwhile.
The top image was entered into the Wex Photographic weekly competition held on Twitter by Tweeting an image taken the previous week to #WexMondays which I occasionally participate in with the hope I could win a voucher, most of their entries by other photographers are simply stunning and I have little chance. If anything I enter images to help increase my twitter following and drive traffic to this blog to help promote my work. Wex have requested I write up my experience in taking this image by explaining my process and giving it difficulty rating out of 10.
Asking myself on how difficult it was to capture this image and give out difficulty rating seems to be a simple request but It's actually quite difficult. I went out knowing on what I wanted to achieve. I know what combination of setting are needed to capture this type of image and I know the camera's limitations and why an HDR is useful in this situation. After some thought I will rate this picture with a difficulty rating of 6/10 and here is a simple checklist for taking sunset images and landscape images in general.
- Get there early and find something of interest to include with the sky. It can be a boat, tree or a building for example.
- Use a tripod to stabilize the camera as hand holding the camera will make the image blurry, or a flat surface such as a wall and trigger the camera with trigger release or self timer mode.
- Take test shots before the sunset to see if you're happy with the general framing and dont forget to look around the edges of the viewfinder for any unwanted branches that you don't immediately notice.
- HDR is not always required, a silhouette image is just as effective.
- Try manual mode, remember to use your lowest ISO and around F/16 then change the shutter speed to get the sky correctly exposed as auto modes will probably get it wrong.
- Take images in RAW mode, this is very important to capture enough information for post processing later.
- Practice, taking good images takes time and experience which can only improve by getting out there and taking pictures.
- YouTube is a great resource with tutorials on camera settings, technique and image editing to learn from.