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.

Teton Glow

Sunrise at Grand Teton national park

Among the captivating photographs found in the Mountains gallery, the Teton Glow stands out as a rare gem where the elements of clouds and colors align on the opposite horizon from the sunrise. This unique phenomenon creates a mesmerizing effect, illuminating the foreground with a perfect balance of light and color. However, experiencing this magical moment requires a stroke of luck, as it is a rarity to witness such a spectacle during a single morning in the Tetons. Yet, for dedicated photographers, the thrill lies in those serendipitous moments when everything aligns perfectly, leading to an image that will forever be etched in memory. Despite the long six-hour drive back, the journey is undoubtedly worth it for the chance to capture the breathtaking Teton Glow at sunrise.

Chelan Sunrise

sunrise from Chelan Butte near Lake Chelan.

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.

Palouse Layers

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

The Palouse region stands as a captivating destination for sunrise photography, where the interplay of light and landscape creates mesmerizing compositions. However, the presence of clouds can potentially hinder the beauty of this picturesque location. To truly experience the magic of the Palouse sunrise, clear skies are the key, as they allow the golden rays to cascade over the rolling hills, illuminating their contours and infusing the scene with a striking contrast. From the vantage point of Steptoe Butte, the opportunities for breathtaking compositions seem endless, making it worthwhile for photographers to spend a few days in this enchanting place, capturing all the shots their hearts desire.

Cotton Candy Sunset

sunset from Kerry Park with the space needle and mount rainier

Sunset photography with a cityscape is an art that demands patience and a keen eye for blending natural and urban elements seamlessly. Capturing the perfect shot requires an understanding of the fleeting nature of cloud colors during sunset, which often disappear before the city lights illuminate the scene. To achieve stunning cityscape photographs, photographers employ a technique called Time blending, combining multiple images taken at different moments to capture both the breathtaking sky colors and the enchanting city lights. This meticulous process enhances the overall appeal of cityscapes, creating captivating visuals that truly stand out.

How to Capture Stunning Sunset Photos

Sunsets are a captivating subject for photographers, offering a mesmerizing blend of colors and breathtaking beauty. However, capturing the essence of a sunset can be a challenging task.

The Key to Perfect Sunset Photography: Flexibility

When it comes to photographing sunsets, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The optimal settings and techniques depend on various factors, including lighting conditions, camera equipment, and personal preferences. To achieve the best results, it's crucial to be flexible and adapt your settings accordingly.

Mastering Exposure: Learn to Exposure Bracket

In the modern market, a plethora of top DSLR cameras and even smartphones boast a valuable feature known as automatic exposure bracketing. This function, sometimes integrated into an HDR mode on smartphones, offers photographers an invaluable tool for capturing stunning shots effortlessly. With auto-bracketing mode, the camera ensures three different exposure levels for each shot, allowing portrait, landscape, and abstract photographers to concentrate on capturing the perfect image without the need to extensively adjust settings in manual mode.

Overcoming Motion Blur: Adjusting ISO and Shutter Speed

As the sun sets and the available light decreases, you may encounter challenges with motion blur. To counteract this issue, you can increase the ISO setting on your camera. However, it's important to note that higher ISO levels can introduce unwanted noise into your images. To mitigate this, consider taking multiple photos and blending them using Photoshop.

White Balance: Preserving the Essence of Sunset

Accurately capturing the colors and ambiance of a sunset requires proper white balance adjustment. While setting your camera to Auto white balance may seem convenient, it can lead to inconsistent color tones in each image, making blending more challenging. To maintain consistency across your photos, consider using the manual white balance option on your camera.

If you shoot in RAW format, you can fine-tune the white balance during post-processing in Photoshop. However, for the most comprehensive data and optimal results, strive to match the scene's temperature by setting the white balance manually in-camera.

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.


Sunsets provide an awe-inspiring canvas for photographers to express their creativity and capture moments of extraordinary beauty. By employing the techniques and approaches outlined in this article, you can enhance your sunset photography skills and produce images that outshine the competition. Remember to stay flexible, adapt to changing lighting conditions, and let your artistic vision guide you in immortalizing the captivating allure of sunsets through your lens. 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.