How To Capture a Last Minute Sunset

Sunrise and sunsets make for beautiful images. Today I tell you the story behind the sunset that almost escaped.

Sitting at home enjoying a lovely cup of British tea on a Sunday afternoon I think about how dull the weekends weather has been with dark overcast sky and flat light. Days like these are best spent processing images, shopping for new gear or planning the next photo adventure.

With one eye constantly looking for that break in the cloud and the occasional look at the weather app on my iphone time was ticking to sunset. Full of motivation all I wanted was a break in the cloud.

When the sky starts to break

With sunset around 45 minutes away I noticed a very small break in the cloud. Grabbing my camera bag, tripod and car keys I hastily make my way to the car. The cloud has broken and light levels have started to fall. I start to drive unknowing where to go at such short notice. I head towards Highgate Common. I have been here several times before walking my dog but I have never taken the camera with me.

Running out of time

I arrive at Camp Hill car park which is quite busy with dog walkers returning from walks. Knowing I don’t have time on my side to walk the common land to find a suitable composition I decide not to stay. As I exit the carpark the sky is starting to look amazing. Vibrant reds, oranges and yellows illuminate the horizon and I know I need to find a composition soon. I turn down a country lane. I know I probably have 15 minutes before the colours darken and disappear.

As I navigate the narrow country lanes trying my hardest to avoid potholes which have been filled with water from the nearby flooded fields my path is blocked by a nye of pheasants. They gradually move from the road and a path wide enough for a car allows me to continue. Luckily I didn’t meet an oncoming vehicle as there were no passing places and one of us would have had to reverse a considerable distance.

A Gateway to a golden sunset

Just as I am about to call it a day and return home I spot a car parked at the side of the road. As I get closer I see a gateway to a field with what appears to be a lone tree in a farmers field. Someone has stopped to take a snapshot on his phone. As he quickly gets back in his car and drives on I Stop the car where he had been moments before. As I leave my car I see the large tree with a beautifully lit sky in the background. With no time for setting up a tripod I hold the camera to my eye. I find a quick composition by placing the large tree on the left hand third line in my viewfinder with open space to the right and quickly adjust my exposure. I take around four frames and review my images on the back of the camera. I am fairly satisfied with the image and and look forward to seeing the image on a bigger display. I don’t usually get too excited with what I see on the back of the camera as I’ve taken many images that look great, only to get home and be disappointed. Likewise I have nearly deleted images out in the field which have later turned out to be keepers.

1/15 Sec at f/4.0 ISO400


I love hearing your feedback and stories about how you may have created a similar image.

Matt Boxley
Matt Boxley is a photographer from the West Midlands, Great Britain who specialises in landscape, nature and travel photography. He purchased his first DSLR in April of 2014 and soon caught the photography bug. Matt now continually fight's the battle within himself to create the perfect picture.

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