Who doesn’t love to take pictures of sunrises and sunsets? The tricky part is getting the right exposure: The extremes of the dark ground, the bright sun, and the variations in clouds can confound your camera’s automatic metering system. A camera with exposure lock or manual aperture/ shutter control is invaluable. Here’s how to use them:
1. Expose for the sky. To record vibrant colors in the clouds and sky, meter only on the sky: Exclude the ground by pointing the camera up, lock in the exposure (or set it manually), then compose your image, and shoot. The clouds will wind up with rich medium tones in the picture, a good choice. Sometimes a sky 1 stop brighter than medium tone is a better choice, achieved by adjusting the exposure manually or by setting the exposure compensation dial to +1.
2. Shut out the sun! If the sun is in the picture, set the exposure just as above, but absolutely keep the sun out of the frame when metering. If you meter with the sun in the frame, that supremely bright bad boy is going to fool your meter into saying “darker, please, darker,” and your photo will be underexposed. This is where a spot- or limited-area meter comes in handy — aim it at a light-to-medium tone in the sky and proceed as above. For the sunrise at Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald, above, I spotmetered the yellow clouds just above the mountains and added 1 stop of exposure.
3. Bracket, bracket, bracket! Bracketing means taking several otherwise identical shots at differing exposures. For sunrises/sunsets, bracket at least 1 stop on either side of your chosen exposure. One of them is bound to be good, and you can often get several different good images.