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Dark Sunset

Posted by
Ian Bramham (Manchester, United Kingdom) on 9 March 2011 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

A photo that I took at the weekend near where I live in Poynton, Cheshire - the sun was setting as I walked back through the quiet of the woods on the way home. This was the final moment before it dipped out of sight below the tree tops.

This effect was all achieved in-camera (there's no Photoshop trickery involved).

It's easy to do if you use a macro lens - here I used a "Nikon 105mm f2.8vr micro" but any macro lens will do.

By focusing on an object close to the camera, like the twig in this photo, the setting sun in the distance becomes blurred and much larger in the frame. In this one I really liked the perfect orange circle that it formed and so I moved around while looking through the viewfinder until I got the twig to bisect the circle which I thought made an interesting composition.

The only significant thing I did in post-processing was to crop it to a square format (I composed it in the camera viewfinder with a square crop in mind). The square format is one of my favourites as I love the feeling of balance and harmony that it can bring.

Note - heavily influenced by my friend Joanna Ohmori's photography from Japan. You can check out her photos here:
Joanna Ohmori

NIKON D700 1/100 second F/3.2 ISO 200 105 mm (35mm equiv.)

Like what you see here and are interested in photographic composition?.....the blog section of my website now has a complete set of 5 articles covering my personal approach to the subject: Ian Bramham Photography - Blog

For purchasing high quality archival prints of any of these photos you can send me an email by clicking here or by going to my website Ian Bramham - Fine Art Photography where prices are listed in the gallery sections under each individual photo.

Valérie Simonnet from paris, France

magnifique, un effet somptueux, dans la tradition japonnaise.

9 Mar 2011 5:16am

@Valérie Simonnet: Thanks Valérie!

sunstone_maria from California, United States

magical!! beautiful!!!

9 Mar 2011 5:59am

@sunstone_maria: Thanks Maria!

tim from high desert, United States

This is very cool. Try not to directly copy people, but am going to try this. So its essentially a single large bokeh bubble. Mmmm, bokeh bubbles!

9 Mar 2011 6:38am

@tim: Thanks Tim!....the technique is used a lot in portrait photography. Here is a gorgeous example from Alfie Goodrich who is one of my favourite photographers on Flickr. He's a full-time professional photographer living in Japan:

Simone from Italy


9 Mar 2011 7:25am

@Simone: Thanks Simone!

Anna.C from LA ROCHELLE, France

a beautiful composition and realisation ! so Zen !

9 Mar 2011 8:18am

@Anna.C: Thanks Anna!

Sof from Neuchâtel, Switzerland


9 Mar 2011 8:42am

@Sof: Thanks Sof!

Gérard Beullac from Paris, France

Magnifique de pureté, semble si simple.

9 Mar 2011 9:26am

@Gérard Beullac: Thanks Gérard!

Olivier Paillet from toulouse, France

Beautiful compo ! Great shot ! Well done !

9 Mar 2011 10:04am

@Olivier Paillet: Thanks Olivier!

guillaume from Paris, France

Bravo !

9 Mar 2011 11:46am

@guillaume: thanks Guillaume!

Scene by Sharon Photography from Kingston, Ontario, Canada

STUNNING!! This is a print I would love on my wall.
Thanks for sharing your technique in achieving this winning image!
Love it!!

9 Mar 2011 11:47am

@Scene by Sharon Photography: Thanks for that Sharon!

Helder Ferreira from Portugal

Nice, really nice. Love the bokeh you created and the silluette is amazing. Well done!

9 Mar 2011 12:16pm

@Helder Ferreira: Thanks Helder!

Anita from Bretagne, France

Oh! Magnificent. A pure very Zen marvel.

9 Mar 2011 12:18pm

@Anita: Thanks Anita!

Tinx from Kuressaare, Estonia

Simple but beautiful!

9 Mar 2011 12:22pm

@Tinx: Thanks Tinx!

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

This is indeed fantastic Ian, I agree with Sharon. There even seems to be a shadow from the piece pf grass casting onto the, I know that is not the case but, to me, it makes this masterful piece all the more appealing and beautiful Just a fantastic job, sir and thank you for the tips ;-) - All the Best - Denny Jump

9 Mar 2011 12:32pm

@Denny Jump Photo: Thanks Denny.....I noticed that 'shadow' effect too when I was post processing the photo. I think the answer to the mystery is that I took the shot in the middle of a wood thick with trees from the foreground right through to the horizon and I guess the 'shadow' is the blurred outline of another twig or branch that was between me and the sun.

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Just amazing and beautiful This should be spotlight! Thank you Ian!!

9 Mar 2011 12:44pm


bravo, pure art****

9 Mar 2011 2:22pm

@DIMITRIOS: thanks Dinitrios!

Nina from Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States

Calm, tranquil, beautiful. And I appreciate you sharing your technique, very generous.

9 Mar 2011 2:25pm

@Nina: Thanks Nina!.....not all my photos are simple as this one but I'll always have a go explaining technique if asked and there's detailed explanations on my website to various things like using neutral density filters etc to achieve the long exposures I that often use.

Ian Smith from London, United Kingdom

Excellent stuff Ian! Don't know why, but I think 'Japan'?

9 Mar 2011 2:32pm

@Ian Smith: Hi Ian....I recently went to an exhibition exploring the influence of Japanese art on Van Gogh's paintings and I've been thinking about it quite a bit. Also Joanna Ohmori's photos (link above) have been hugely influential.

BBM from Sussex, United Kingdom

Great composition and color!!

9 Mar 2011 2:52pm

@BBM: Thanks BBM!

Hoshisato from Ealing, United Kingdom

Brilliant, that's why you win prizes :-)

9 Mar 2011 3:08pm

@Hoshisato: Thanks Hoshisato!

fabrizio from Rome, Italy

spectacular result - wonderful

9 Mar 2011 4:26pm

@fabrizio: Thanks fabrizio!

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

Stunning image and commentary equally so. Haven't yet made the link between macro and portraits but I'll take a look at Alfie later.
Nice one Ian!

9 Mar 2011 5:51pm

@Ted: Hi have you been keeping?

For portrait photos you probably won't want to focus as close upto a face as I did here with the twig however you can get a very similar effect (but the bokeh discs are smaller) by using a shallow f stop lens - one of the f1.4 prime lenses would be ideal. On that Alfie Goodrich portrait he used a Nikon 85mm f1.4D lens.

Klaudia J from Slovakia

wonderful shot ...

9 Mar 2011 5:54pm

@Klaudia J: Thanks Klaudia!

Babzy from Besançon, France

So Zen !

9 Mar 2011 6:18pm

@Babzy: Thanks Babzy!

karla from Omaha, United States

This is meditative. I think you caught the right moment in feeling and light. I looked at Joanna Ohmon's images and can see how this image has been inspired by her work.

10 Mar 2011 5:10am

@karla: Thanks Karla.....Joanna's photos are beautiful aren't they!

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

fantastic photo and a very different one to your usual work! excellent focus and great skill to get the perfect round sun shape in the background!

10 Mar 2011 5:48am

@DarkElf: Thanks!'s good to try different things every now and then and this was my first time photographing with a macro lens in quite a while.

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Magical photo, great!

10 Mar 2011 8:21am

@Stefan: Thanks Stefan!

hugo poon from hong kong, Hong Kong

Oh Ian, this is my recent favourite! Not only have you spotted an exceptionally enchanting sight, you've composed it in perfection! Feel so happy for you my friend!:-)

10 Mar 2011 12:37pm

@hugo poon: Thanks Hugo!

Christopher from United States

Beautifully crafted shot and a stunning result!

10 Mar 2011 1:25pm

@Christopher: Thanks Christopher!

Rayak from Paris, France

Wouah, it's a marvelous picture. Thanks for your generosity to share so kindly your advise to achieve such pictures but you forgot to talk about your talent.

11 Mar 2011 11:40am

tom from Germany

Wow. This is a fantastic graphical shot.

11 Mar 2011 7:36pm

Valeria Carolina from Tres Arroyos, Argentina

I love it!

13 Mar 2011 6:33pm

Stu from Scotland | Living in 京都 Kyoto, Japan

A wonderfully subtle and understated shot. You've handled the lighting beautifully.

14 Mar 2011 9:11am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

A perfect beauty... and Joanna's photo was great, too :)

22 Mar 2011 2:23pm

Aubélia from Kortrijk, Belgium

Excellent. I like it.

23 Mar 2011 12:05pm

Pavan Kaul from Mumbai, India

Such exquisite simplicity...I love this Ian:)

How are you now? Hopefully the camera's repaired and you are back to shooting:)

3 Jul 2011 6:39am

@Pavan Kaul: HI Pavan, I'm starting to get back to normal now thanks. Also I got my D700 back from the repairers yesterday and took my first new photos in what seems to have been a long time.

1/100 second
ISO 200
105 mm (35mm equiv.)