Evening twilight over Rangitoto Island from Takapuna Beach, Hauraki Gulf
Sunrise and sunset offer a wide range of opportunities to the photographer, not just in terms of the way different parts of the sky take on different hues, but also in the way that these hues can change dramatically within minutes or even seconds. During these times most of us are inclined to look towards the rising or setting sun itself, attracted by the colourful display of low sunlight reflecting directly off clouds while the sun hangs low over the horizon. The lighting in such scenes can often be dramatic and of very high contrast, with strong colours and deep, dark shadows.
These scenes can be difficult to photograph because of the intensity of the highlights and shadows, which makes it hard to estimate a correct exposure for the scene as a whole. By comparison, a look towards the horizon opposite the rising or setting sun reveals a very different lighting situation. This is especially so when the sun is just below the horizon, such that there is no direct sunlight on anything in the scene at all. The resulting effect is one of very even lighting, with soft pastel colours and a greatly reduced contrast, and, in my experience, a much easier scene to capture on film. The lower light level overall requires longer exposures, but this too can give rise to pleasing effects such as the dreamy white misty pattern in the foreground in this photograph, resulting from a breaking wave that rolled in while the shutter was open.