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Capture the perfect sunset

With autumn setting in, the sun has been setting earlier and earlier. There’s reason to be cheerful though, with some tips on capturing those spectacular sunsets from photographer and writer David Newton. He seems to have seen and done it all, from wildlife and landscapes to travel. He’s also lent his expertise to Canon and SanDisk - providing training seminars and technical knowhow.

We spoke to David when he dropped by Peter Jones recently to share his knowledge with John Lewis customers.

 
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I'm at my happiest trying to solve the multitude of challenges the light creates.

 

How did you get started as a photographer?

I went to uni in Bangor North Wales to study Marine Biology and while there, was struck by the beauty of the Snowdonia National Park. I bought a camera with my first student loan instalment and set about teaching myself from books and magazines...and a lot of trial and error!

What inspires your work?

When the conditions are tough, I'm at my happiest trying to solve the multitude of challenges the light creates. I'll turn my lens to anything that I think I can find beauty in, whether it's the natural world, a person or something man-made.

Your sunset photography workshop at Peter Jones filled up fast! Do you have any tips on shooting the perfect sunset for those who couldn’t make it?

As with all photography, the light and composition are key elements. Many people concentrate on the light and think that a great sky will make a great image and they forget about foreground interest or indeed any form of subject. Despite a great sunset, there still needs to be something in the image to hold the viewer's attention.

Manual shooting can be intimidating for some photographers, how should they go about getting started?

With digital, there is nothing to be afraid of as it doesn't matter if you get it wrong - you can simply try again until you get it right. With Live View on the cameras, shooting in Manual for sunsets is even easier - simply fire up Live View and with the camera on a tripod, you can adjust the shutter speed and aperture and see what happens to the image in real-time, all before pressing the shutter button.

Sunset

There’s a lot of motion and contrast in your work. Do you have any advice on how to capture shots that pop like that?

I like to capture motion in my images where possible, it's one reason why I'm always drawn to landscapes with water in them. The first step for many is to use a slow shutter speed, and many people will tell you the slower the better. However, it depends on what you are trying to capture. Really slow will create a very soft blur where the image may actually be better having a bit more detail. In terms of contrast, there's not much to it - I use ND grad filters to help even out the dynamic range in the scene.

There was some new Canon gear on show as well. Do you have any favourites?

I've not had chance to use the new EOS 700D in action yet, but the few times I've had my hands on it, I've been impressed. It's feels solid in the hand, but isn't heavy. I like the flip-out screen too as it helps you use Live View when the camera is in an awkward position. It also seems to work well at higher ISO settings too, something that is very good when the light levels fall after the sun has gone down.

Do you have any advice for those new to photography?

If you're just getting into photography, don't try and run before you can walk. Take your time to learn about the camera, the features and where all the settings are. Spend time really learning about exposure metering and how to read the light. That way when out into the wild, you won't be fumbling around trying to remember where a particular feature is, or how to get the correct exposure.

David’s top tips:

• If you want to shoot landscapes and especially sunsets, think about a wide-angle lens.

  • A cable release and tripod will also be useful when shooting landscapes.
  • For sunsets, don’t just focus on the light - keep an eye out for foreground details too.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with settings and different filters.
  • It's also worth shooting in RAW rather than JPEG. The Canon RAW software is provided in the box free with the camera and it makes it easy to get the most out of your images.
  • When buying a camera, don't scrimp on the memory card. Buy a high capacity, fast card to make sure you get the best out of the camera.

For more photography advice, head over to How to take stunning portraits