It wasn't until my photography journey began that I understood how light works. To have amazing light at sunrise and sunset, clouds are necessary. Sunrise and sunset photography is boring without clouds and color. The best color doesn't happen until after sunset or before sunrise. This is the reason photographers are up early for sunrise and stay until after sunset. The further north you live, the earlier you need to be on location for sunrise which can be annoying. For instance, if sunrise is at 5 am, you should be on location by 4 am. So if you have to drive for an hour, now you leave home at 3 am, and get up around 2:45 am. See the problem?

What makes sunrise and sunset red and orange? The simple answer is Rayleigh Scattering. As the sun nears the horizon, the light has to travel further so blue light is scattered first due to it's short wavelength. Red and yellow light have a longer wavelength so they travel further giving clouds the colorful appearance. It's all very scientific and this is a photography blog so we'll leave it at that.


Sunrise at Grand Teton national park

A calm morning in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming. The clouds were building in the early hours and I wasn't sure if they would catch some color. Grand Teton is the center peak, Middle Teton on the left, and Mount Owen on the right. Limited edition print of sunrise taken from Schwabacher's Landing from his Mountains gallery.

Teton Glow, from the Mountains gallery is one of the few times the clouds and color were on the opposite horizon from the sunrise. When this occurs, the foreground lights up for a perfectly lit image. With one morning in the Tetons for sunrise, the chance of capturing a great sunrise is nearly impossible. Sometimes the stars align and everything works out. But then it was back in the car for a six hour drive.


sunrise from Chelan Butte near Lake Chelan.

From the top of Chelan Butte hang glider take off near Lake Chelan, Washington. At an elevation of 3300 feet, Chelan Butte is suitable for all levels of hang gliders. Lake Chelan is 50.5 miles of crystal clear lake in central Washington. With over 300 days of sunshine and countless wineries, Lake Chelan is a destination for many families in the Pacific Northwest. Limited edition print of sunrise taken from Chelan Butte his landscapes gallery.

Photographing sunrise can be one of the most frustrating parts of landscape photography. Getting up early, driving the dark to the location, finding a composition, only to have a sunrise with no color. Chelan Sunrise in the Landscapes gallery did not disappoint. The road to the location was terrible but the color made the trip worth it. Photographing sunrises can be difficult when you're new to photography. Learning how to bracket exposures is the best way to overcome the high dynamic range of the scenes.


rolling hills of the Palouse during sunrise photographed from Steptoe Butte.

The glow of sunrise on the rolling hills of the Palouse in Washington State. These hills were created when the ice dam of Lake Missoula failed and flooded the area several times during the last ice age. The silt and dirt from the glaciers carving out the mountains and valleys was deposited in the area creating fertile land for farming. Limited edition print from the Palouse gallery.

Sunrise photography in the Palouse is one of the few locations where clouds can ruin the scene. With clear skies, the gold light washes over the hills lighting the tops and adding contrast to the scene. Standing on Steptoe Butte and looking down on the rolling hills, there are compositions everywhere so it's best to stay for a few days to get all the shots you want.


sunset from Kerry Park with the space needle and mount rainier

Sunset of the Space Needle and Mount Rainier from Kerry park in Seattle. Two of the most Iconic structures in Washington State. The Space Needle and Mount Rainier in one shot. This is one of the best reason to photograph sunrise and sunset from Kerry Park. This is the reason you should keep going back to the same location many times. I think this was the 15th time I was there to shoot sunset and finally had the light work in my favor. Limited edition prints from the Cityscapes gallery.

Sunset photography with a cityscape is about patience. The cloud color is gone before the city lights turn on. Get your shot of the color in the sky then leave your camera and wait for the city lights. Photograph the lights and use Photoshop to blend the images together. This is called Time blending. Without it, the cityscapes don't look as nice.


How to take pictures of the sunset? This is a tough one. The correct answer is "it depends". A good place to start would be ISO 100 and an aperture of f8 or f11. The shutter speed will change as the light fades. Just make sure you have a tripod so as the shutter speed increases, the image will still be sharp. As the light fades and the shutter speed increases, you may have issues with motion blur. If this happen, then increase the ISO to compensate.

Increasing the ISO can cause some unwanted noise in the image. One way to adjust for this is to take multiple photos and blend them in Photoshop by changing the opacity of each image. If you take 4 images and open them as layers in Photoshop then the bottom image is at 100% opacity, the next one is 75%, then 50%, and 25%. The final image will have almost no noise. If you take more than 4, the adjust the opacity accordingly for the amount of images you have.

White balance in sunset and sunrise photography can be adjusted as well. Setting it to Auto can cause problems as each image may be a different color and blending becomes more difficult. I use a Sony and can adjust the white balance manually. This is my preferred method so each image is the same. I match the temperature of the scene as best I can in camera. If you shoot in RAW, white balance can be changed in Photoshop but matching the scene with manual white balance will give you the most amount of data.

The best thing to do is to get out and shoot sunrises and sunsets and learn what works best for you. Maybe find a local professional photographer and take a one or two day workshop to learn a bit faster. I offer Post Processing lessons that will help you get started in Photoshop and Lightroom for editing your sunrise and sunset images.


Landscape photography is all about light. Sunrise and sunset photography can be very challenging but this is when the best light happens. I was recently on a backpacking trip and one person said he didn't really believe the best light is at sunrise and sunset. Our last night out, we finally had a good sunset and his mind completely changed. He saw the light become soft and colorful and the scene transform in front of his eyes. The downside to sunrise is getting up early but the upside is not many people will be around. Same goes for sunsets. Most people have gone home and you may have the place to yourself. Just get out and practice with your camera and learn the settings that work best for the scene. Checkout more of my sunrise and sunset photos in my Fine Art Galleries.

Light rays and fall color in the Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth, Washington.

Not very often does the light cooperate right when you arrive at a location. I decided to drive to the Tumwater Canyon for the second weekend in a row. The previous weekend had lots of rain and snow. Most of the snow was gone and the sunrise lit up the clouds and the hillsides. A couple light rays filtered through the clouds to add more interest to the image. Tumwater Canyon is a favorite location for rock climbers due to all the bouldering in the area. Limited edition print from the Landscape gallery.

Sunset with mount rainier and Indian paintbrush at reflection lakes in mount rainier national park.

The Indian Paintbrush wildflowers and the reflection of Mount Rainier in the lake during sunset. This was one of the most amazing sites I have witnessed during my trips to Mount Rainier. Not very often do the stars align and you get to witness such amazing displays of light. Limited edition print from the Mountains and Vertical galleries.