A tripod. Personally I just about always shoot RAW and aperture priority. Will there be foreground interest, such as a sand pattern that you also want in reasonable focus? That will impact your aperture setting.
Thanks guys and I have a ND Filter just not a graduated one. I saw the most beautiful sunset last night but wasn't feeling good or I would have tried capture it. The sun was actual already set so it was just the sky that was gorgeous. Thanks everyone!!
White balance setting will make a huge impact on the colors. I like to shoot raw and then bring the files into Lightroom or NX2 where the white balance can be revised. Sometimes choosing Florescent as a starting point will bring out a lot of purple and deep blues. Other times, I'll try Cloudy and watch the whole scene warm up. You can make minor tweaks to the color as well by adjusting the warmth and tint sliders.
Only thing I can add is to try to get the shutter speed down for the manual curtain and not high enough for the electronic shutter. I believe 1/200 sec. or slower is in the range. This will help reduce "blooming" of the brightest part of the sun caused by the sensor charged for an electronic shutter release.
Post processing will boost all colors if necessary.
As Wylie says, I find that manual exposure center weighted metering of the sky adjacent to the sun (but not including the sun) is a good starting point and then I shoot a 5 shot bracket. Always on a tripod - never once got a satisfactory sunset image hand held.
As far as a regular ND filter (vs. a split ND) - the split ND is useful to balance out the dynamic range differences between the over the horizon and under the horizon lighting. A regular ND will reduce the exposure of the entire image and will not help you.
Regarding WB settings - no substitute for shooting in RAW. Why "guess" the WB when you can get it perfect in the raw conversion?
Mom - your idea about metering behind you and locking that exposure is a terrific idea. Simple if you think about it, but I never did. I think I would still bracket anyway though, but I'll bet your system will yield the most accurate "first" shot.
Baretoes - I never considered the difference between manual curtain and electronic shutter. Not sure I ever realized that there was a difference. I need to read up on that so I understand your point. I guess one is never too old to learn a new trick. That is why I love this forum.
I find metering this kind of light to be challenging. In the end I usually shoot in manual, manually focus the lens to infinity or near infinity, set aperture to f/5.6-f/8, ISO to 100, on a tripod. Then I vary the shutter speed and fire off shots based on the histograms. Since the colors and tones are what I'm after, I sacrifice some motion at slow shutter speeds to keep the ISO down. If you go over even 400, there is loss of color fidelity even though noise is not a problem per se. I shoot in RAW, and just use the auto WB.
I use Lightroom 5, not sure if you post-process, but there is a lot that can be done with the initial image. The key is to capture all of the highlights (right side of the histogram hump will represent the sky, left side will be the shadows). If you preserve the right side with no skinny peak at the edge, you're in good shape, as most cameras today will have a lot of data hidden in the shadows for you to unveil.
After this I use the gradient filters as a virtual grad-ND filter. You can adjust the exposure, highlights, contrast, clarity, and saturation of the sky independent of the underexposed foreground. Then I apply a second gradient to adjust the foreground and blend it a little in the transition zone. Lightroom 5 now has a radial filter that is helpful when there is some uneven brightness, like a brush but much easier to gradate.
This method is pretty helpful for variations in white balance, as the sky will be warm and the foreground will be cool (i.e. there is mixed temperature light and no one correct white balance), so you can balance things out a bit such that it looks like what you're seeing in real life.
I'll try to post some before and after shots if I have time this week.
I stood for about 45 minutes waiting for the sunset. Took dozens of pictures from a location and chimped. Bracketed over/under exposed, NEF.
When it came down to it, one shot was all I needed.
hand-held (braced against a support post). For about 30 to 40 seconds the scene turned this color! Cloned out some near-shore lights.
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I just did this a few weeks ago, when on vacation. Didn't have a tripod with me, and don't own any ND filters. Used RAW, focused on a rock Getty, picked a speed ok for the lens I had, took several shots, mostly underexposed, and chipped to see what looked good.
Made sure I go there 30 mins before sunset, so I had time to play with settings.
I tried a 5 shot bracket, to do an HDR, but the shore didn't align well. Overall, I took about 20 shots over a period of time. I wanted to see how it looked with the sun partially set and just touching as well.
I liked the underexposed shots the best. Here is one I liked a lot...
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It was overcast, when I left where I was staying, but appeared to be clearing by the lake, so I risked it. Hoping that the clouds would enhance the picture, and that I would even see the sun. :smile: It's not "publishing" quality, but for my first sunset attempt, I'm pretty happy.
@ Mom and Rick... I don't get the idea of metering behind you.. why ?
You would read much less light than the sky is effectively sending to your camera.
This would lengthen the exposure time and you should have an overexposed shot.
What am I missing here ?