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Tasmanian landscape photographer Nick Monk on capturing sunrise and sunset on camera

Georgie Burgess, Monday March 23, 2020 - 13:21 EDT
ABC licensed image
Photographer Nick Monk likes to strategically use natural light on his subjects. - ABC licensed

Even from isolation, the simple pleasure of a beautiful sunrise or sunset can still be enjoyed.

Snapping the colourful horizon during first and last light is a pastime for many, while others use the day's bookends to light up a subject.

Tasmanian landscape photographer Nick Monk likes to get creative with natural light.

"Landscape photographers love to shoot at sunrise and sunset because one of the key elements to any nice photograph is the quality of the light, and often there is a higher chance of beautiful light around those times," he said.

"Good light isn't confined to the 60 minutes either side of sunrise or sunset, often referred to as the 'golden hour.'

"During other times you often need other weather conditions to assist making good light."

Choosing a subject

Mr Monk likes to travel to places that directly catch good light as the sun is rising or setting.

"I look at where the sun is going to rise from or fall to," he said.

"I check for obstacles to the light hitting my subject such as mountains, buildings, or trees, and of course somewhere with an interesting view or foreground."

He said there were photography smartphone apps that could be used to do the planning, and that he doesn't like to shoot directly into the light.

"There is nothing wrong with doing this of course, and modern cameras are much better at dealing with the problems this can cause such as lens flare, or too much contrast between light and dark," he said.

"But I prefer to shoot where the light is hitting so my subject is lit from the side.

"This often means that I will shoot more to the north or the south, rather than the east or west of the rising or falling sun."

Where to catch the light

Mr Monk said the best locations for good light are up high, such as on a mountain or on the coast.

"This gives you the best chance at those first rich red and pinks as the sun is right on the horizon," he said.

"And remember, the sun rises and sets in very different locations depending on the season.

"So if a nice place doesn't catch the light in summer, it might be in the perfect position in winter."

Afterglow and alpenglow

Mr Monk said it was always worth getting to a location well before sunrise, or sticking around for a while after sunset. He said to not forget a torch to get back to the car.

"The softening evening light can create a beautiful glow on your subject, and in the sky," he said.

"It's more subtle than direct sunlight, but more often than not it will give you an even more beautiful photograph."

He said photographers called it 'afterglow' or in the mountains 'alpenglow'.

What makes a colourful sunrise or sunset?

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Anna Forrest said there were two weather conditions that determined whether there would be a colourful sunrise or sunset.

"You need something that will scatter the light and act like a prism," she said.

"An approaching cold front will do that."

She said some cloud coverage was helpful.

"It doesn't have to be visible, it can be very high in the atmosphere and fairly thin and icy, and that will also scatter it [the light]," Ms Forrest said.

"Either of those conditions will give you a very colourful sunrise."

As for the bright red sunsets during a fire, Ms Forrest said smoke and dust particles scattered the light.

"It depends on the size of the particles as to what colours you get," she said.

Your location also plays a part.

"The closer you are and the different angles adds to the different colours you'll see," Ms Forrest said.


© ABC 2020

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