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08-03-2016, 08:35 PM   #1
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Sunset color

I shot some frames tonight at sunset as the sun passed through a haze layer, which caused it to look, as the song says, "like a red rubber ball". But in every frame, the sun showed as yellow. I played with exposure and white balance a dozen times, as much as time would allow, but to no avail. My eyes saw it as red, but the camera insisted on seeing yellow.

Any ideas on how to get a red sunset to show up the way it actually looks?

I'm using a K-50 with a Pentax-M 135. All settings "manual".

08-03-2016, 08:38 PM   #2
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If shooting JPEG, you'll want to change the custom image profile and/or white balance until you get the colors you want. A bit of trial-and-error may be needed.

The best solution, though, is just to shoot in raw and mess with both those settings retroactively. You can do this in-camera, or on your computer.

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08-03-2016, 09:22 PM   #3
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I tend to set my White Balance to Daylight and leave it there and only change it when conditions are very overcast or when using flash. Trying to predict the correct WB I find is almost impossible. Do I want the sunset to have a reddish orange cast, most certainly, so I leave it on daylight and tweak in lightroom.

A couple of other points that may or may not affect you.
  • My spectacles which react to light intensity, seem to add a pinkish tinge at sundown that the camera naturally does not pick up. Sunsets seem to look pinker than they really are. Catches me nearly every time.
  • WB Adjustable Range, is a setting in K-5 and K-7 which can effect white balance even if set manually. I turn this OFF. Not sure if this feature is in the K-50.
  • Software such as Lightroom can have an auto tone setting that will attempt to "correct" the white balance. I turn this OFF.
  • Viewing screen on camera may not be accurately reproducing colours. I keep mine on Natural with all minor settings at default values. Yep the previews can look a bit flat and colourless but this is close to the RAW as opened in Lightroom.
  • RAW give better scope for adjustments.
  • Is your monitor calibrated?
  • I always underexpose sunsets by about 2 stops. Mostly achieved by metering off a bright part of the sky.

Last edited by Bruce Clark; 08-03-2016 at 09:24 PM. Reason: added exrta pointer.
08-03-2016, 10:34 PM   #4
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I'm shooting raw (dng), and I have a couple of PP programs (DCU, Zoner 17) which I haven't quite figured out how to use. I guess I'd better do some homework.

08-04-2016, 12:40 AM   #5
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You could also try setting your white balance to 'CTE' which I believe stands for 'Color Temperature Enhancement'. A few years back, I attended an event at Pentax HQ here in Denver when the K-30 was being released. I had seen the CTE option in the WB settings, but the manual didn't explain it very well. The Pentax rep used the example of capturing the unique colors of a sunset/rise as the reason for including it as an option, one that was or still is unique to Pentax cameras.

Back when I was a TV photojournalist, we would occasionally manually white balance the camera off of a pair of faded blue jeans in order to give a sunset shot that extra 'pop'!
08-04-2016, 05:09 AM   #6
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It may also be that the red colour channel is over saturating while the green and blue channels remain ok. Use the three colour histogram on the replay review of your images to see whether the red channel is being burnt out (indicated by a lot of the red channel graph being to the far right of its graph).

You may need to underexposed 2-3 stops below what is metered to protect the red channel and then attempt in post processing to selectively rebrighten the darker parts of the image. Or blend multiple images with selective masking.
08-04-2016, 05:19 AM   #7
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It could also be red channel overexposure. That makes red and orange sunsets turn yellow.
Check your RGB historgram to confirm.

edit: what southlander said...

Regards,
--Anders.
08-04-2016, 03:06 PM   #8
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I did a search, on this forum and elsewhere, for sunset pictures. Interestingly enough, the prettiest ones are those where the sun does not show! (There's a lesson there somewhere.) In most of the others, the sky is red, and the sun is - you guessed it - yellow.

I have been overexposing, trying to get some shadow detail (got "dark" warnings on the shadows), so I will give up on the shadows for now and knock the exposure down, even though this would seem to conflict with the "expose to the right" theory.

I can't make much sense of the RGB channels - I have a lot of red; now what?

The photo below is one I found which shows more closely what I'm after - what I actually saw last night - although I would like it not as dark.

And I thought that digital would be easier than film.

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08-04-2016, 08:48 PM   #9
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Ugh. -2 EV not so good. This in no way resembles what I saw tonight. It looks like a sunset on Mars, maybe.
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08-04-2016, 09:17 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by rlg118 Quote
I did a search, on this forum and elsewhere, for sunset pictures. Interestingly enough, the prettiest ones are those where the sun does not show! (There's a lesson there somewhere.) In most of the others, the sky is red, and the sun is - you guessed it - yellow.

I have been overexposing, trying to get some shadow detail (got "dark" warnings on the shadows), so I will give up on the shadows for now and knock the exposure down, even though this would seem to conflict with the "expose to the right" theory.

I can't make much sense of the RGB channels - I have a lot of red; now what?

The photo below is one I found which shows more closely what I'm after - what I actually saw last night - although I would like it not as dark.

And I thought that digital would be easier than film.
If you watch closely.. there are actually almost 2 unique sunsets (not really but 'hear' me out please). There is the actual sun setting.. then, a few moments later, the sun is positioned further down (out of view) and can bounce off any clouds.. I call that sunset #2. It is especially gorgeous when there is a storm front (overcast) except for the horizon (so the sunlight has space to break through and reflect off the clouds).

I prefer capturing sunset 2 most often.

Also, as mentioned by others, shooting in RAW format such as DNG is super helpful with this.. you can adjust white balance, temperature, and even the sub color channels (not just red green and blue but red orange green yellow blue magenta etc.. at least it is so in Adobe Lightroom.

I tend to underexpose by half a stop and then pulling up the shadow detail in post.. half a stop, I find, is sufficient to retain all the sky detail without losing much of the shadow detail (after adjusting in post).

This is where fiddling with sliders and experimenting does a lot of good.
08-05-2016, 08:06 AM   #11
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If it sounds like I'm getting really frustrated about this, it's because... I'm getting really frustrated about this. I apologize if I have annoyed anybody.

I agree with you on the "two sunsets". I have even posted some frames of the "second" one in the Mini-Challenges thread. What I'm talking about in this case is the seemingly simple ability to capture the colors accurately. It should be possible, no?

To wit:

On humid days, there's a layer of haze on the horizon which turns that small slice of sky sort of a blue-grey color. The sun, upon reaching this haze layer, is shaded red. But, no matter what exposure I use, no matter what white balance I use, no matter what lens I use, I get nothing but red sky and a blown-out yellow sun.

I don't get home from work until after 8 P.M. so there are not too many days left to get it right.
08-05-2016, 08:37 AM   #12
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I shoot bracketed raw and then blend the exposures... that way can get a little detail in the dark while not blowing out the sun/sky. Sometimes processing a single raw as an HDR (or using a developing program that can affect only parts of the image) can also get there.
08-05-2016, 10:16 AM   #13
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Try in manual mode with iso 100, f/16 and 1/4000 and see where that takes you. If that still blows out the sun you'll need a ND filter.

Regards,
--Anders.
08-05-2016, 12:24 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rlg118 Quote
Ugh. -2 EV not so good. This in no way resembles what I saw tonight. It looks like a sunset on Mars, maybe.
You are up against basic physics (and biology) on this one. The sun must be amazingly bright relative to everything else in the scene because it's supplying all the light for everything in the scene. And the biology issue is that the human eye is really good at auto-exposing every little patch of the scene so the brain thinks "what a nice red sun, red sky, and red foreground" when the actual light levels are very bright, medium, and very dark.

As markdesmarais mentions, HDR is the way to go.

As a first step, use the spot meter to determine the correct exposure for the sun. The best exposure might be a few EV different from the reading because: 1) the spot meter footprint is larger than the sun at F=135 mm; 2) you want the sun to be a bit brighter than 18% gray. Then spot meter the sky in a part you think should be 18% gray. And you might also take a third exposure based on spot metering something on the ground, too.

Those will be the two or three exposure levels for an HDR blending.
08-06-2016, 05:33 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rlg118 Quote
I shot some frames tonight at sunset as the sun passed through a haze layer, which caused it to look, as the song says, "like a red rubber ball". But in every frame, the sun showed as yellow. I played with exposure and white balance a dozen times, as much as time would allow, but to no avail. My eyes saw it as red, but the camera insisted on seeing yellow.

Any ideas on how to get a red sunset to show up the way it actually looks?

I'm using a K-50 with a Pentax-M 135. All settings "manual".
The sun appears yellow because it is over exposed. Select spot metering and meter off the sun, or something else close to it, depending on how dark you want the overall shot.

Sunsets need very careful control to get exposure right, and I find spot metering is the best way to get them
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