In the time I’ve been seriously taking photographs, one thing I’ve discovered is that a little research pays dividends before you travel to a location to photograph it. I used to just turn up where I fancied and snap away, now with a bit more experience under the belt I usually have some idea of what kind of shot I want before I get there and it’s pointless going if the conditions aren’t going to be right!
Here’s a perfect example, this is the Belhaven Bridge just to the east of Dunbar:
At this location, high tide covers the walkway to the bridge so the bridge looks as if it goes nowhere with deep water either side, it in fact, spans the Beil water as it exits into the sea at this point which you can see at low tide. So, using the Tide Times website, I knew when high tide would be so headed down there for that. Sadly, it didn’t co-incide with sunset which you could check out on Suncalc.
Arriving later than hoped the tide was peaking but not covering the walkway. I know from research that night at the high tide height was 4.6m so; it follows logic that the walkway was just on the verge of being covered so waiting for a day with a tide predicted to be higher than 5m will give me the shot I want. The perfect time to take this shot will be a high tide, 5m+ co-inciding approx 20 either side of sunset. High tide and sunset co-incide on 24th May but with a predicted tide of only 4.2m it’s not the perfect night to get the shot, better to wait a couple of weeks and try again.
Tides also play an important part of decisions where harbours are concerned. I love long exposure shots but high tide, long exposures and boats bobbing about don’t go! Nobody wants blurred boats! In this instance, it’s better to forgo the 10 stopper and use a faster shutter and wait for a lower tide, or at least the boats in the front of the shot to be grounded. Of course, you always have the option of cutting the boats out of the shot altogether, but unless there’s something else as a good focal point then this leaves you with limited options.
Clouds are another feature of nature to keep and eye on. Nice blue skies are all very well, and indeed welcome in some cases but a bit of cloud cover always helps. To try and give an example, this is the top of the Falkirk Wheel on a day with little or no cloud cover:
I know which shot I prefer…
Fast moving clouds, by which I mean heavy broken cloud, are great for long exposure photography. Huge dark clouds with little or no definition are not! Clouds can also add a lot to sunsets as the light bounces off them and in HDR photography you can create dramatic scenes with a nice cloud cover:
So, before you head off. Keep an eye on the:
And plan accordingly!
I wish I could have made this a top sunset and sunrise blog post but not being an early morning person, sunset locations will have to do!
Of course, there are millions of places to photograph the sunset from, but not all of them will have anything to interesting in the shot. I’ve tried to avoid city centre locations s there are literally millions of places, what I’ll concentrate on there are the more full on landscape sunsets.
Some of these are pretty seasonal depending on the position of the sun and I’ll attempt to tell you when best to go and take your sunset pictures from there, as always, Suncalc is an invaluable resource in planning your location and timings.
1. Calton Hill
Calton Hill is undoubtedly one of the best locations for a sunset but it’s seasonal. From roughly October to March the sun will come down in view of the front end of the hill, i.e. the bit that looks onto Edinburgh Castle. The rest of the year your Calton Hill sunsets will have either St James Centre or the roof of the Omni Centre in the foreground, not the most attractive buildings it has to be said. The first shot below was late October and the 2nd one was early February. If you want the sun behind the Castle, early to mid November is the time to aim for.
2. Salisbury Crags
This one is pretty much an all year round location but autumn and spring will see the sun down nearest the castle. Due to the height it’s a challenging place to photograph the sunset and I don’t feel I’ve got a shot I’m happy with from here yet. Don’t go up with a really wide angle lens though; otherwise you’ll get the undesirable flats of Dumbiedykes in the foreground of your shots.
3. Forth Bridges
South Queensferry is such a good location if I could only take one picture again it would be this one and the Bridges. Get down the little road to the right of the rail bridge and you can get both bridges in one shot, it’s a summer shot though as the sun comes down too far to the left once you get to late October.
The road bridge is easier to get in the sunset shot but again, it’s best in summer unless you go over to the North Queensferry side.
Cramond again is best in summer, later in the year the sun will come down over the land and not the water, far less spectacular. In the height of summer on a calm night, try getting the boats moored at the mouth of the Almond or get out onto the causeway at low tide and get the sun reflecting in the wet sand. You might even want to risk some wet feet and get the sun through the submarine defences, do take care to check the tide times though.
5. Newhaven Harbour
Sunset is possible at Newhaven Harbour most of the year but later in the year the sun will set over Granton and you’ll lose the reflections on the water. Earlier in the year you’ll be able to get the lighthouse and long reflections of the sun in the Firth of Forth or from further back, even directly through the mouth of the harbour itself.
6. Blackford Hill
Blackford Hill is a bit of a funny location for the sunset. Ideally you’d want the sunset with Edinburgh Castle as your main focus from here but the sun comes down nowhere near the Castle from Blackford, you’ll only get that orange glow bleeding that far over the sky on the most perfect sunset nights. Otherwise, you’ll need to get right to the top at the trig point to make the best of it. The sun will come down roughly behind Corstorphine Hill in summer moving round to behind Braid Hill in winter. Best foreground interest will be the houses of Morningside or Craiglockhart Hill.
So, that’s my 6 favourite locations, how about adding some more in the comments below?
Ok, so here goes for my first tip and this is one I use pretty often myself.
We all know as photographers or even would be photographers that sunrise and the more sociable sunset are some of the best times to go out with your camera. What’s not so easy is locating the times and position of the sun.
It seems obvious now but until I became obsessed with photography I never actually noticed that the surise/sunset positions actually moved. We all know the time changes through the year and you can usually, with a little thought, get a fair idea of when it’ll be but over the course of a year the position of the sun changes to a fair degree.
If I’m only looking for sunset or sunrise times then I tend to use the Met Office iPhone app which will tell you the times for your location, but only the next one. ie, at 5pm it will tell you sunset may be at 7.30pm and after that it’ll tell you when sunrise is but it’s useful to get an idea of cloud cover as well, no point making the trip out if the sun is going to be totally obscured by thick cloud is there?
A more exact science is the website Suncalc.net.
What this website lets you do is to pinpoint a particular position, in the example below I’ve chosen the corner of the observatory on Calton Hill looking over the Dugald Stewart monument over the Balmoral and the Castle, that classic Edinburgh shot! From the position from today you can see on the right when sunrise was, when sunset will be and more importantly, the positions of the sun for each. The yellow line for sunrise, orange for the position of the sun now and the red for sunset. From this example we can see that the sun would be just to the right of the shot.
This might actually be ok on a clear night but ideally for the perfect sunset you’ll want it coming down roughly behind Edinburgh Castle, so by playing with the date, we can see that on November 4th onwards, the sun will set just behind the Castle, which, with a bit of clear sky will be a near perfect position.
The great thing about Suncalc is that as it’s based on the Google Maps api it’s a familiar interface and you can easily work out where you’ll be a sunset or not just by moving the marker around. You never know, it might save you a wasted trip. Most of the summer the only sunset you’ll get from Calton Hill is over St James Centre, not quite as attractive a building at the Castle!