Today, I am going to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart. It’s one I am surprised I haven’t delved deeper into on my blog….photography.

In this day and age, anyone can learn how to become a professional or at least, a decent photographer. We all have the tools readily available to us. Smart phone cameras have come a long way and professional digital cameras are more affordable than they once were. There are countless blogs, videos and digital books you can read to learn the craft.

One of my favorite things to photograph are the sunrise and sunset of each day. Who doesn’t stop at least once on their vacation or travel adventure to catch their breath at the magnificence of an evening sky filled with color?

If you don’t know my story, I started learning the art of photography around my 10th birthday. I was given a pink and purple point-and-shoot camera from my grandmother. I was hooked!

I had a portrait and event photography business for 7 years until I moved to Charlotte. My camera is retired from paying photo shoots; however, it still comes out when I travel or just want to be creative.

This past weekend, we didn’t have much planned. I suggested we visit a new location in the Lake Norman area and catch the sunset. We drove a few minutes from the house to Blythe Landing Park. Unfortunately, the first night didn’t produce the colors I was hoping for. As you will learn, a photographer visits the same location many times until that perfect shot is captured. We visited again a second night and my results are below.

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Sunset at blythe landing park

My sunset photography tools

You only need a handful of tools to capture a fantastic sunset. Here are the exact items I brought with me to photograph the sunset at Lake Norman.

  1. Camera Body: Nikon D300S
  2. Wide Angle Lens:  Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Digital Zoom Lens (AF-S Motor) (for Nikon)
  3. Tripod: Manfrotto Tripod with adjustable head
  4. Remote: RFN-4s Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Nikon DSLR
  5. Graduated Neutral Density Filter: Cokin Gradual ND Creative Kit Plus + 77mm Adaptor Ring (the adaptor ring works for my 24-20 lens and my 11-16)

how I photographed this sunset

In this blog post, I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of photographing a sunset. As you can see above, I’ve given you the camera settings I used to capture the Lake Norman sunset. However, below I will explain why I chose the settings I did.

  • Camera lens: I normally shoot my landscape photography with my 24-70 mm. However, my wide angle lens was getting a bit dusty sitting in my bag. I’m so glad I brought it as I was able to capture the full view of my corner of the lake.
  • Tripod: A tripod is a necessity when it comes to shooting in low light situations. As it gets darker and your shutter speed gets slower, any amount of movement will cause your photos to be out of focus.
  • Remote: Along with a tripod, a remote is a helpful tool. It allows you to take a photo without touching the camera. Once again, this removes the possibility of shaking the camera causing unwanted blur in your photograph.
  • Graduated ND Filter: I chose to use one filter toward the beginning of my sunset shoot. While the sun had just gone behind the trees, that area of the sky was quite bright. I wanted to tone it down a little while keeping the boats in the foreground lit.
  • ISO: Keeping your ISO low is important when you want to capture movement. If you want to stop the movement in your photo, I suggest bumping your ISO to 400 or above. I wanted to show motion in the water by slowing down my shutter speed. This correlated with a low ISO.
  • Aperture: I kept my aperture to f/19 and above as I wanted the entire scene in focus. This also allowed me to simultaneously slow down my shutter speed.
  • Shutter Speed: All my favorite shots were taken a little under 1 second. It was just enough to stop the kayaker and the bobbing boats from blurring.
  • Histogram: Throughout the sunset, I checked my histogram to make sure it wasn’t too far to the right or to the left. Don’t trust the naked eye to determine if your shot is properly exposed.

Before and After

Now, the sunset photographs above are after I edited them in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I increased the saturation, used split toning and the Curves adjustment tool to bring out specific colors and make the photograph my own creative style. Each of these alone are pretty big topics. If you Google them, there are loads of helpful videos. Let me know if you have specific questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help out!



Diagnosed with Celiac Disease eleven years ago, I've been on a journey discovering what it means to be truly healthy. Join me as I share my personal fitness goals, gluten free recipes I've tried, travel tips, curly hair product reviews and all things creative.

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