Here are some bits and pieces of what I have learned about outdoor photography lighting, more specifically when it comes to taking sunrise and sunset pictures.
Someone once said that a photographer uses light as his paintbrush. Whether using available light or fill in flash, it is the essence of a good photograph. If not utilized properly the photo can be either washed out (underexposed) or too dark (overexposed). A good photographer will work to master this technique.
As a wildlife and outdoor photographer I try to use the first and last light of day if possible. For sunrise and sunset pictures, the ideal lighting is 30 minutes before sunrise plus 1 hour and the last hour plus 30 minutes after the sun sets. Sometimes this is not always possible and the shot must be taken with whatever light you might have at the time. This is when you must learn to improvise. An intimate knowledge of your camera becomes a necessity at times like this. It is best to try to use optimum light when possible as this makes for warmer colors and more dramatic composition.
Sunrise and sunset pictures can be very dramatic and rewarding but it does take patience and preparation if one is to have success. Sometimes before the sun comes up there is a magnificent cloud formation on the eastern horizon so I will get everything ready and wait with great anticipation for the colors to form ( as I said previously, most of the time the best color occurs just before the sun comes up or just after it sets). The wait for just the right moment is invigorating and filled with anticipation. Then, as is often the case, the whole scene falls apart with a “vanilla” scene. When the magic moment does occur you must start shooting , creating just the right composition and matching the camera settings on the fly. It is important to vary the f-stops and shutter speed so as to get the optimum settings and the best colors for your photograph.
Then comes the time to transfer the photos to your computer for viewing. This can be disappointing as sometimes what the eye sees thru the lens does not come up as beautiful as you had imagined. However, when everything is perfect and the scene appears on screen as you had imagined it is very fulfilling and makes all your efforts worth while.
Remember, every click of the camera becomes a learning experience in the world of outdoor photography. Someone once said that very little is learned from success but that failure becomes your best teacher. In other words, learn from your mistakes.