I was taking the little munchkin swimming last night and drove past a lovely field of sunflowers. They look pretty good right now so I thought i might try and get a sunset shot of them one night this weekend if the weather looks good. I thought it might be interesting to go through a bit of my thought process and planning procedure for this shot as i use a couple of useful apps for shooting landscapes that you guys might be interested in.
Checking the weather
Of course, if its overcast and/or raining there is probably no point even going out - not for sunflowers at least. However, for me it is far more complicated than just knowing when the sun is shining. There are two ingredients you need for a cracking sunset.... no low cloud and a good amount of high cloud. This is what gives you those amazing "atomic" skies when the sun dips below the high cloud but is still above the horizon. The light from the sun travels through the atmosphere and bounces off the clouds creating an amazing fiery blanket.
I've only really found one app that fulfils the need of a landscape photographer and that is Clear Outside. It's created for astronomers primarily, but has the superb feature of predicting cloud levels at any location (and it does quite a good job to be honest). It also does a great job of predicting fog for those ventures into the woods on a foggy morning.
Here's an example of what it shows me for Saturday evening at my target location
You can see the time across the top and the sunlight bar shows full sun, sunset, dusk/blue hour. At sunset there is zero low cloud, a tiny bit of medium cloud and quite a bit of high cloud. These conditions are about as perfect as it gets for sunset so lets hope that it remains like this through the next 24-48 hours. Also no fog or chance of rain and perfect visibility. Noice.
Following the sun.
I also find that knowing where the sun is going to be before turning up at location is a great help. There's no point making your way to a great location for sunset if the sun is setting behind a mountain in front of you when you want the sun to illuminate the front of it. Best wait for sunrise in that case.
There are a couple of apps from the same suite of tools that i use for this. The Photographers Ephemeris is quite frankly a remarkable set of tools for working out what your scene will look like based on the sun's location. They have a few tools available, a 2D sun locator, a 3D version that simulates shadows and sun hitting terrain and "Photo Transit" which helps to visualise field of view for locations with different lens selections. Impressive stuff.
As I live in an area with very few hills, i tend to use the 2D version but the 3D version works really well too...
South of Kilimanjaro? This is what the sunset will look like tonight.
So here's a little gif of the sunset details for the location of these sunflowers on the Photographers Ephemeris 2D. They are located next to the road so i'll be wanting to shoot from the south/south-east towards the north/north-west so as not to get the road in shot. The static darker orange line points to where the sun sets, the lighter static line is for sunrise. As you move the time around on the bottom bar you can see the position of the sun alter. The blue lines are for the moonrise and moonset (great for night photography).
Sun position changes over time
All being well, the sun should light up the sky nicely and i should be able to keep it out of the frame to avoid any direct flaring or. Lets have a quick look at how the field of view might work with the 24-105 lens on the 60D with Photographers Transit. (Field of view for those that don't know is how much of the scene is in the frame of the camera).
Altering the focal length on the 24-105 to get FOV limits
It looks to me that at any focal length on the 24-105 with a northerly shooting direction, the sun should be out of frame as it's quite far to the left which is good news. I might even be able to use the 10-22 but will check that on-site tomorrow evening all being well. There is also the option of getting some backlit images of the sunflowers as the sun comes down lower to the horizon.
I'll post the resulting images hopefully in the next few days. I have a few days with some cool photography opportunities coming up. Tomorrow afternoon I have rented out a kingfisher hide so hope to get some good images of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Hopefully that will be followed by a sunset shoot with the sunflowers and then on Sunday I am at a big dog show.
Nice to be busy with the camera again, and to be back on Steem, bringing them to you
Thanks for reading