How To Capture a Last Minute Sunset

Sunrise and sunsets make for beautiful images. Today I tell you how to capture a last minute sunset as I photograph 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. As 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.

You don’t have to use a tripod

With no time for setting up a tripod I hold the camera to my eye. I make my composition by placing the large tree on the left hand third line and balance my composition with open space to the right.

Capturing around four frames I review my images on the back of the camera. Satisfied with the image I have made I look forward to seeing the image on a bigger screen. I don’t usually get excited with what I see on the back of the camera. I have taken several images in the past 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.

Capturing a last minute sunset near Highgate Common
1/15 Sec at f/4.0 ISO400 @ 26mm (18-105mm f/3.5-5.6)


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

Don’t forget you can also connect with me on Instagram and Facebook where I will be sharing a selection of images from my recent adventures.

Until next time…

Ta-ra a bit

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Matt Boxley
Matt Boxley is a freelance photographer from the United Kingdom. Matt 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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