Sunset and Blue Hour Photography - Technique and Choosing a Location


This is my dilemma with photographing sunsets and blue hour. I am completely addicted to it! I love watching the sun set, I love it when a beautiful 'after burn' turns clouds into orange/pink/red gorgeousness and I love the stillness that comes over the city as blue hour ( well maybe 'blue 10 minutes' here in SG ) arrives and the city lights are switched on. 

When I am at home and see the beautiful golden light streaming into our lounge room, I feel quite sad and anxious that I am not out there shooting one of nature's most beautiful displays. Told you I was addicted. 

Each one is different and it is difficult to predict which one will be amazing. So I try to head out as often as I can. If I am blessed with a breathtaking sunset while out and about with my camera, I truly feel grateful to be capturing such beauty. I don't think I will ever grow tired of shooting at this time of the day. 

Luckily  we are moving to a different house soon and  the lounge room view will no longer feature an uninterrupted view of the setting sun. Even my boys have started saying - " Don't look Mama" and " Shall we close the curtains".  Rest assured we are not moving for this reason, but I think the family will feel a sense of relief too :) 

Here is one of those sunsets I watched from our lounge room window.......


This kind of photography is actually quite simple as long as you follow a few steps and turn you camera to M shooting mode.

Here is my 'recipe':

  • Go early. Choose one location and really focus on optimising all of the below points
  • Start setting up ( of course you need a tripod- buy a good one!)  and playing  with composition about 15- 30 minutes before sunset. 
  • Turn off your VR ( Nikon) /Stabilizer ( Canon) on your lens or in camera. 
  • Set your camera to M mode and adjust your Aperture, Shutterspeed  and ISO similar to this ( if you want to learn how to shoot properly in M then you can attend one of my classes. They are advertised hereand will recommence in August when my boys are back at school ) 
  1. ISO - Maximise the image quality by keeping ISO it's lowest ( 100 usually)  at all times 
  2. Aperture - For most cityscapes an aperture somewhere between F8-16 is fine. This will offer a good depth of field, minimal diffraction and when the city lights come on, you get beautiful starbursts at the smaller aperture settings. I don't tend to adjust my aperture much for night shots.
  3. Shutterspeed - this is our main tool to ensure correct exposure. Shutterspeeds just gradually become longer, as the sun sets and ambient light fades. The nice side effects of long exposure photography are quite creative - like smooth reflective water and trail lights of moving objects ( cars, motorbikes, boats, trains etc) which have lights on them. If you want very long exposures and hence very long trail lights you can use ND filters on your lens to allow for even longer shutter speeds.  
  • During long exposures any movement of your camera or tripod will create a blurry shaky shot.  Here are a few things you can do to avoid this 
  1.  Don't touch your camera or tripod at all while the shot is being taken
  2.  use a remote shutter release or your built in timer so you don't shake your camera, when you depress the shutter release  button 
  3.  remove or hold up any straps attached to the camera 
  4.  if it is a very windy day or the ground you are placing your tripod on is not solid ( e.g. jetties, rocks ) then you will most likely end up  with unsharp images. Sometimes it is not possible to get a good shot. Find a new location or come back another day. 


Here are my favourite locations in Singapore for sunset/blue hour shots 



there are so many different perspectives all around the bay. You will need about 10 evenings to cover them all! Note the sun as a starburst ;)

Sometimes you get very lucky too!!

GARDENS BY THE BAY - especially this spot at the Water Lily pond


SINGAPORE RIVER - so many locations up and down the river



AND DON'T FORGET NATURE!  Reservoirs, lakes, fields and forests take on a new life during this wonderful time of the day

So are you feeling the urge to head out tonight?? It's Friday - why not plan an outing this weekend? Let me know how you got on.

Have a great weekend 

Sandra x

Sandra Macheroux