Dusk for me has the best colours of any time of the day. Next time you witness a sunset, please stay for another 20 minutes. All of a sudden when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon you will be treated to the very finest colours of nature, the clouds will light up like on fire very briefly and all is well with the world.
It’s close to magic and one of the awesome features of digital sensors – they’re extremely good at picking up the red light of dusk and actually better at it than the human eye. I don’t fully understand how but I know that the brain is probably overcompensating in adjusting the white balance of what the eyes see – perhaps because the light level is so low. So my brain sees the scene as too blue but I just keep shooting because I know the sensor in my Canon 5D will pick up all the red that my brain seems to filter out. When you open the raw file you can see how saturated the red channel is, it’s amazing. You have to underexpose or you’ll blow out that red channel with all that lovely colour information!
This is magic from 1 year ago in Copenhagen (actually only got around to stitching this panorama a few days ago, how lazy am I!). Click to see large:
I haven’t added much saturation, with this sort of dusk light and these sort of clouds (quite rare) everything lights up like crazy for just a few minutes! As you can tell, this is also a stitched panorama with moving elements – birds and water. It is shot handheld, stitched in PTgui and with a bit of clean up in Photoshop it is actually possible to do stitched panoramas (read more about them in my post here) with moving elements as long as the changes between each shot are not too drastic.
It will be fairly close to dark at dusk especially in Winter so you may need your tripod or lenses with image stabilizer. But remember next time at sunset, don’t go, stay another 20 minutes and be prepared! It’s magic and then it’s gone again!