"Oh, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth."
― Roman Payne
As photographers, every journey we take has a common feature, a highlight marked with capital letters in our agenda: SUNRISE and SUNSET.
We simply cannot help avoiding to get up early in the morning, grab the camera and go out in the wild; or skip the first course of dinner because we need to catch the last ray of light vanishing behind the hills. It is in our blood; it is something we simply cannot control.
Tuscany and especially the Val d'Orcia land are the perfect places to satisfy our need for sunlight. Here, in between these gentle hills, lie some of the best spots for sunrise and sunsets in the world. We are presenting to you some of our favourite spots, and also, reveal secrets on how to take the shot of a lifetime. Ready to follow the sun?
Let us say it out loud before everything else: if you are in Val d'Orcia, basically every hill is good for sunset and sunrise; this is undeniable. Due to how this land and geographically is formed: there are no particular high spots. However, there is a wave of rolling hills, almost of the same height, stretching as far as the eye can see. So be prepared, because the sun you are looking for may be just around the corner or over the top of the next ridge.
Even in Val d'Orcia, not all spots are created equal. This is why we want to present you the spots we consider the best of the best.
Now we know where to go. But what about how to catch the sun? What are the secrets? What gear is best for this kind of photography? Here is a list you definitely have to follow to improve your skills
Don't be left in the dark! A headlamp or flashlight is useful for making sure you can see your surroundings and navigate the path before the sun rises, or stop you from falling over once it has set. There are no street lights out here, so if the moon is not out, and you are left without a lamp, you might end up down the bottom of the hill quicker than you intended.
The rule is simple: if you want the sun to look large in the sunset or sunrise, use a telephoto. Otherwise, if your aim is to see the sun smaller in the scene, use a wide-angle lens. Simple.
And never forget to clean your sensor first and your lenses first! Dust spots are amplified when shooting into the sun, and it could ruin all the work you have done.
A must-have when you are shooting the twilight periods. Not only will it give you the ability to lock in the perfect composition, but it allows you to shoot a smaller aperture to maximise the depth of field, and shoot the lowest ISO possible for the cleanest and crispest image. But, in doing so, if often requires slower shutter speeds that can't be obtained handheld.
Bring along a Speedlight with you if you're planning on shooting a portrait of someone standing in front of a sunset or if you want to illuminate foreground objects. It is the only way to have both well exposed.
Arrive early and leave late
It's the first commandment, the main rule. If you arrive 60 minutes before dawn and dusk, besides having the chance to get incredible results with long-exposures, you have all the time to find the perfect compositions, prepare your gear and have a coffee to wake up if you need one!
Don't rush to pack your bags. Usually, the best light is just moments either side of the actual sunrise and sunset. We typically break down the time into three segments. The time before the sun rises, and after it sets is "blue hour" where there is residual light in the sky, but the sun is not present. "Sunrise and Sunset" mark the start of the end of "Goldern hour" where the shadows are deep, and the quality of light takes on a virtuous goldern hue.
This is an essential tip for taking pictures of sunsets. Slightly underexposing the sunset will make the colours look more vibrant and defined. The entire scene will become more dramatic. It is obviously a matter of style, but if you try darker you'll never come back!
The best recipe for a good sunset is to have some object of interest in the foreground. If you're in Val d'Orcia, spikes and flowers are right there for this purpose. They will add depth to the scene and make your photo stunning.
Just speed up your shutter speed, and you'll have a silhouette. The key to taking a good silhouette shot is to find a subject with fine details that will let the sun shine through it and that has a recognisable shape.
Take off your sunglasses
It may seem obvious, but how many times does it happen? With sunglasses on, you'll think the photos are all darker than they really are because the LCD will look unnaturally dark. If you forget, you'll kick yourself when you look at the photos back at home. If in doubt, remember to look at your histogram as it always has a mathematical representation of the data recorded.
And these are just some of the many reasons we are excited to host a seven-day intensive workshop in Tuscany in May 2020. Care to join us? Learn more on our Tuscany Photography Workshop page.
Author: Mirko Fin
Mirko has no limits or disciplines in photography; he looks for the meaning in everything. He finds his life as a photographer as a never-ending challenge, an everlasting expedition. He is hosting our seven-day intensive Tuscany Photography Workshop in May 2020. Places are limited, so act quickly if you want to be a part of this photographic journey.