|foliage, wildlife and, of
course, sunrises and sunsets.
During his 21 years as photographer for Parks and Tourism, Chuck
Haralson has taken literally hundreds of sunrise and sunset shots,
and his badge is surely merited.
Where to Shoot
Possibly the most important part of taking a good sunrise or sunset
shot is being at the right spot, and according to Haralson, overlooks
and vistas are a good place to start. "I would try to get as high as
I could," adding that doing so allows the photographer to capture the
The location, though, should not solely focus on the distant
background, Haralson said. "Try to make the shot more interesting
than just the sunrise. Try to frame it with a tree or a cityscape if
you can. Lots of things can work. Sometimes, especially during
winter, I can find a lot geese lined up with the sun rising in the
background. That's a nice shot."
And wintertime, according to Haralson, is one of the best times of
year to shoot sunrises and sunsets. "I've found that a lot times in
the winter there's not as much haze as there is in the summer. Skies
are clearer and crisper, which makes for more vivid colors."
Adding to the equation of color are clouds, which can "make or break
the shot," Haralson said. "Clouds can add a lot when the sun's rays
are coming through them. Certain kinds of clouds, when the sun
reflects from beneath them, can turn a rosy pink or just about any
other color of the rainbow. Once the sun sets and reflects back on
the clouds, it can be really spectacular ... or the clouds could move
in at just the wrong moment and ruin your sunset."
In the Ozarks, Haralson said Sam's Throne, approximately 13 miles
north of Lurton on Hwy. 123, is a wonderful sunset site. "It has nice
mountains in the background that you could frame it in. The sun will
set behind the mountains, and you're up high. It's just a great
shot." In the Ouachitas, Haralson said Mount Magazine, Arkansas's
highest peak at 2,753 feet, and Queen Wilhelmina State Park both
provide picturesque sunsets as well.
"Also, there's Mt. Nebo," Haralson said. "It has a sunrise and sunset
point, and both are really popular for visitors. But I would say the
prettiest view would be the sunset. It has more mountains. The
sunrise overlooks the Arkansas River Valley and is flatter. It's
still a good shot, and that's where the hang gliders take off."
In Arkansas's Delta, Haralson prefers Lake Chicot. "You can frame
either a sunrise or sunset with cypress trees, and the reflection on
the water is nice, too," he said, adding that the lengthy docks
extending over the lake make for the perfect set up.
When shooting a sunrise or sunset, Haralson said a tripod is
necessary. Film with a speed of 50 or 100 is what Haralson "always"
uses, but he said film speed of up to 400 could be employed. Higher
speeds, though, increase the likelihood of "grainy" prints, he said.
Measuring the light entering the camera with a meter is paramount,
according to Haralson. "You have to find a balance between the sky
and whatever's in the foreground. That's not easy to do. When the
sun's coming up you would meter next to the sun -- not exactly on the
sun. I try to read next to the sun, and I take an exposure off
whatever's in the foreground and balance it out. You need to get a
balance between the real bright and dark." A longer shutter speed
with a longer F-stop will provide depth of field and a shaper image,
As far as general advice, Haralson suggested a photographer should
get to the site early to avoid being rushed. "And think about what
you want to do before you get there. Also, take a tripod and bracket.
Say you're shooting at a 60th of a second, shoot some exposures at
F/8, F/5.6, and F/11. Then you're covering all your bases and
somewhere in there you're going to have the perfect exposure. Even as
many years as I've been shooting pictures I still bracket. Everybody
Timing is Everything
Possibly the most difficult part of shooting a sunrise or sunset is
the small window of time the photographer has. Haralson said some of
the best shots are taken when the sun is just breaking the horizon
"all the way up until when it's parallel to your lens. Then you start
getting lens flares. You have a very narrow space there that you can
shoot without having a lens flare. But during that time, there's that
golden light that I like to shoot, and that's only about 15 to 30
minutes early in the morning and 15 to 30 minutes before the sun
sets. That's the perfect time."
Haralson provides photography tips in each issue of
Arkansastravel.com, which is posted every other month. For more
advice, check out the "Hot Spots" in the "Photo Arkansas" section of
Arkansastravel.com, and don't miss previous articles, which are
listed in the archives available at the site.