Day 1 Sunrise/Sunset Over Prairie State Park


During my short visit to Prairie State Park last week, I was fortunate to be able to see/photograph some beautiful sunrises and a colorful sunset. In today’s post, I’ll feature some images I made of both the sunrise and sunset of Day 1 on the prairie.

As I made my way up Gay Feather Trail to set up for a sunrise photo session, it was still quite dark. Looking up, I saw a very bright moon just begging to be photographed:

Early morning Moon over the Prairie


I also looked up to see the International Space Station (ISS) flying brightly overhead, but was unable to grab any good photos. Patiently waiting, and keeping bundled up (it can get very cold on a hilltop on the prairie!), I finally saw colors beginning to develop in the eastern skies:

Sunrise over the Prairie


And a little while later, the sun rose, obliging me with a nice photo opp:

Sunrise over the Prairie


With few clouds in the sky, the sun soon turned to extremely bright light, so the sunrise was a bit short … but still wonderful! I then photographed some of the wildflowers along the trail (I will highlight them in other posts) for a while, then headed back to the campsite for some breakfast and a short nap. I returned to the prairie in the late afternoon, when the light was beginning to enter the “golden hours” and the wind was dying down. As I was finishing shooting the wildflowers and prairie critters, I noticed a great sunset beginning to shape up.  I set up my tripod and began to get ready for the big event. Here are a couple of sunset shots I was able to capture:

Sunset over the Prairie

Sunset over the Prairie



I’m sometimes asked how I shoot sunrises/sunsets, so I thought I’d include a few tips of how I capture these natural beauties. Here are some rules I try to follow:

  1. I almost always use an ISO setting of 200. This causes the shutter speed to be quite low, but really increases the color saturation of sunrises/sunsets.
  2. I usually use an Aperture setting of ~f/22 to keep as much of the landscape in focus as I can. But I do deviate sometimes so that I can throw some of the landscape out of focus, keeping the subject (sunrise/sunset) in focus.
  3. I always use a tripod! No if’s/and’s/but’s … absolute stability is required for sharp shots!
  4. When exposing for sunrises/sunsets, I usually try to underexpose a bit. Not much, but just a “tad”, so that the colors are even more saturated. Maybe one-half stop, not much more.
  5. I usually shoot both portraits (verticals) and landscapes (horizontals), depending on the landscape and what I’m trying to convey. Plus, often I never know what the photo may be used for, so having both orientations will assure I have the correct one for any project I may need the image for (hey, I’m an Eagle Boy Scout … our motto is to always “Be Prepared”!).
  6. And one often overlooked fact: always be set up and ready to shoot at least one-half hour before sunrise (during the time termed “Civil Twilight” … the sun is not up yet, but you can start to see the landscape with the naked eye). Similarly, when shooting sunsets, always hang around and shoot for at least one-half hour after the sun dips below the horizon. Why should you shoot during these times? Often, the colors are really developing during the pre-sunrise and post-sunset times. I’m often amazed at how many photographers pack up and leave the minute the sun falls behind the horizon. I’m equally amazed at how many times I stay and catch some really bright reds/oranges during this time. So, don’t hurry off … stay until it is dark. That’s why they made flashlights! :o)
  7. Oh, and those “starburst” suns and moons … to get them, you should be shooting at f/22.

I’m already planning return visits to Prairie State Park. In fact, I’ll likely be in the area in just a couple of months, shooting short-eared owls!


If you found this blog post interesting, feel free to send a link to your friends and other photographers that you think will enjoy it!

Posted in Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography Tips, Travel Photography, Wildflowers
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