Sunset and starburst photography in Menorca
I was both surprised and honoured to be invited on a press trip to Menorca recently, courtesy of the guys at Traverse, allowing me to experience both Jet2 to get there and Turismo Menorca when I was there! I’ve been to both its sister islands of Mallorca and Ibiza for your more typical “lads/group” beach holidays so until now Menorca had been overlooked. I won’t be making that same mistake again. It’s the perfect place for some sunset and starburst photography!
The first Spanish sunset
Our group was provided with a jam-packed itinerary for the week ranging from kayaking, to gin tasting, to boat riding, to cheese tasting … even driving Nissan electric cars around the island. Menorca was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993 so the island is seeking to further promote its tourism with an emphasis on sustainability.
What struck me most however was the ever present sunshine and stunning sunsets. Menorca is the most eastern of the Balearic Islands so you get to see the sunset before anywhere else in Spain so I wanted to share my favourite “sunshine” photos of the trip! Plus add some beginners’ top tips on how you can achieve beautiful starburst photography shots and sunset images too! The camera I used for the images below is a Fuji X-T10, which has been recently superceded by the new Fuji X-T20 which you can read more about on Amazon.
15 starburst photography and sunset top tips
1. Sunny day
Shoot for sunbursts on a bright sunny day. It’s hard to create the effect if the sun’s not out! Same goes for sunsets.
2. Clean that lens
Any specks of dust will become more obvious when you’re pointing towards the sun.
3. Use a small aperture
Set your camera to the aperture priority mode. Then set your aperture to F/14 or above (so it’s a smaller hole) so more of your landscape scene is in focus. Go up to F/22 for those starbursts (thanks for that tip Sean Byrne). The smaller the aperture, the longer and more defined the rays of the sunburst will be. Be careful not to stare at the sun of course!
4. Set a low ISO
A lower ISO setting will mean less grain and noise in your final image. Set it to 100 or 200.
5. Consider a tripod – “sunsets”
As it gets darker your camera’s shutter speed may go too low and you could end up with blurry photos. Also a tripod might help to compose a better photo through the viewfinder.
6. Partially block the sun – “starbursts”
For starburst photography have the sun poke out behind a building, arch, mountainside, or even some trees as that will help defract the light. Move around slightly so you can see the starburst image get bigger or smaller in the viewfinder depending on how much of the sun is being blocked by the object.
7. White Balance – “sunsets”
Change the white balance from ‘auto’ to ‘shade” to make the image more “golden”.
8. Foreground objects – “sunsets”
Consider having something interesting in the foreground to add depth to the scene.
9. Set the horizon lower … and level – “sunsets”
Try not to put the horizon in the middle of the photo. Have the horizon 1/3 of the way up and focus 1/3 up from the bottom of the photo too.
10. Underexpose – “sunsets”
Slightly underexposing your shot should make the sunset colors look more rich and defined. Use aperture priority again and the exposure compensation dial and set it somewhere between -1 and -2.
11. Check behind you – “sunsets”
A beautiful backdrop behind you might be bathed in some magical warm light.
12. The “Golden Hour” -“sunsets”
The sky and its clouds will start to change colour after the official sunset with a “second sunset” 25 minutes later. Well worth hanging around for!
13. Silhouettes – “sunsets”
Have some fun with the foreground, finding a recognisable subject such as a body, a lamppost of a detailed pier. Just not anything too big and blocky.
14. Don’t delete from the camera
A photo that looks ok on your LCD screen might be too light/dark on a computer screen so check them on the computer first before deleting (a tip from Pete of Compass Chasers).
15. Enjoy it! 🙂
One of the most important tips! Make sure you “look with your eyes” and savour the view and not solely see it through a viewfinder or LCD screen.
And in summary …
Have I missed any sunset and starburst photography tips? Anything you would add? The advice I gained in Menorca was used straight away in my subsequent trip to Cinque Terre, which is almost the perfect location for any type of photography 🙂