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Sunrise and Sunset Beach Settings

edited April 2012 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
Hello @Moose! I just bought the Nikon D5100 and I must say I am absolutely and completely LOST! I have never owned a camera above a basic digital camera and honestly have used my camera phone for the majority of the pictures I have taken over the past couple of years.

I bought the D5100 in preparation for me and my girlfriend's upcoming vacation to Cabo. After reading all of the posts in this forum and doing extensive research on the capabilities of this new camera, I am very excited about getting started with my new hobby...with that being said, I am going to attempt my first "photo-shoot" this coming Saturday.

I want to take some pictures of the beautiful sunrises here in Southern California and end the day with some sunset pictures. I will be taking these pictures from the beach as well as a pier. I have a tripod and the following lenses:

- Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm
- Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm

Could you please point me in the right direction as far as settings and any tips and hints. Thanks so much for taking the time to establish this forum and keeping the jargon at a "beginner's" level for people like me.


PS...In the event that you receive this post in the next couple of hours, I am also using the camera today to photograph a wresting tournament at work today. The event will be held inside. What are your recommended settings for this scenario?


  • Howdy @CKLL - Welcome! Let's dive right in...when photographing oceanscapes, one of the biggest challenges is dynamic range. Dynamic range is the range of dark to light.

    Generally when you're shooting a sunrise or sunset, your camera is pointed directly towards the sun. DSLR's just aren't capable of properly exposing both the foreground (ocean/beach) and the background (sky/sun)...without a little help.

    Your options are to invest in some good Graduated Neutral Density filters or compose an HDR shot.

    A Graduated Neutral Density filter, is a piece of glass that gradually goes from dark to light. When lined up correctly, you'll be able to darken the sky so that you get a properly exposed image.

    HDR is a process that essentially blends multiple images (of the same scene) at varying levels of exposure. The end result is an image with more dynamic range. If you'd like to experiment with HDR, start with the following setup

    1. Mount your D3100 to a tripod
    2. Attach your 18-55mm for the widest views and turn off VR (vibration reduction)
    3. Enable Aperture priority (A on the mode dial)
    4. Set the aperture f-number between f/8 to f/16
    5. Adjust your ISO to 100
    6. Enable Auto Exposure Bracketing (AE) - You can read more about this feature on page 88 of the manual (Nikon D5100 PDF manual) OR you can manually adjust the exposure compensation, by pressing the (+/-) button on top of the camera and simultaneously rotating the command dial (near the thumb rest).

    The goal is to end up with a minimum of three exposures, I generally take one at -2 (underexposed), another at 0 (standard) and another at +2 (overexposed).

    You then take these images (of the same scene) and process them using a dedicated HDR program, like Photomatix Pro (see here).

    When you process the exposures, Photomatix will display some presets which will allow you to see what your HDR shot looks like with different settings in place. You can then export the HDR shot as a single image.

    From there, you can clean up noise, pump up the saturation and add a little sharpening using a program like Lightroom (see here).

    Clear as mud? :)

    Let me know if that all makes sense. Happy shooting!
  • edited May 2012
    Although I haven't tried this yet, I'm curious as to why you recommend turning vibration reduction off. Why does that matter when manually bracketing exposures for HDR blending? Thanks!
  • edited May 2012
    If you use vibration reduction when the camera is mounted to a tripod, the VR will try and compensate for movement when there is none and you may end up with a blurred picture.
  • That seems strange since one would think the lens would only activate the stabilizing motors when it senses motion, but it appears that the VR motors may actually cause camera shake when mounted on a tripod. It sounds like Nikon recommends turning VR off when using a tripod, but only for certain lenses.
  • @rhino - It does seem strange, but that's how Nikon's VR system works. It continuously tries to compensate for your hand movements, which can result in blurry shots when the shutter speed falls below say 1/60.

    In addition to that, if the VR is compensating (moving) side to side, your photos won't exactly line up when blending the shots together using an HDR program. Hope that makes sense. Happy shooting! :)
  • I've tried the steps above but I am wondering why I can't turn the HDR settings on in the camera menu? I've tried moving the dials to different settings but the HDR in the menu is still grayed out. What am I doing wrong?

  • edited July 2012
    I believe you have to be in either P,S,A, or M mode in order for HDR to work.
  • @cinnamon0415

    For the built-in HDR mode, you need to be shooting JPEG, not RAW. Took me an entire day to figure that one out.
  • Thanks for the advice, will try.
  • edited February 2014
    Having a look at this thread, and I cannot find the HDR mode.
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