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Landscape Colours: When Sunset Pink Meets the Blue of Night

That moment during sundown, where the pink from the last rays of sunset briefly meets the blues from oncoming night. How would you capture such a scene? As landscape photographer Noriko Kita shows us, there are other ways to capture both the sky and the ground besides the split or rule-of-thirds composition techniques. (Reported by: Noriko Kita, Digital Camera Magazine)

This is part of a series of articles where landscape photographers share how they approached a scene and composed, shot and post-processed their images to bring out the beauty of the scene’s colours.

EOS 5DS R/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM/ FL: 400mm/ Manual exposure (f/16, 2 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
Other equipment: PL Filter
Location: Watarase Yusuichi Retarding Basin, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan


The story behind the scene

The wetland where I shot this image was filled with dried-out trees that still stood in the mud. It was a cloudy day, and I wasn’t sure if there would be a moment when the clouds would part just enough for the sunbeams to shine through. But thankfully, they did just 20 minutes before sunset, and the sunlight turned all the clouds pink.

This pink-coloured sunset sky was reflected in the water surface, and I wanted to showcase it by using the dried trees as visual interest.


How to get the blue: Shoot when the sun is below the horizon

The drier parts of the ground appear blue because they were in the shade. The differences in colour temperature between the cooler shadows and warmer highlights results in the shady areas being rendered blue.

The time of the shoot is very important for this. I aimed to shoot after the sun went below the horizon so that there would be no sunlight directly illuminating the ground. Don’t wait too long—you also want to catch the last throes of sunset, when the sky turns pink!

What happens when the sun is above the horizon

When evening sunlight shines on the ground, the mud appears golden.


Composition: S-curve composition to ensure the best colour balance

To achieve balance between the pinks and the blues, I made use of a part of the marsh where the water and the sunset reflected within formed a pink  ‘S’ shape. The S-curve composition also adds depth to the image.

The ‘S’ curve created by the water nicely connects the bottom half of the image, which has more water (pink), with the top half of the image, which has more land (blue).

Another possibility: Pink accent

It’s also possible to use the pink as an accent to the blue ground, like I did in the image below:

In this case, the composition consists of a lot more blue.

Tip: Beware of foreground distractions

This shooting spot is usually hard to enter because it’s filled with reeds. These reeds are burned off every year in March to clear the space, and the image above was shot when I visited soon after that. However, the burned reeds are still visible, and can become a distraction:

The burnt reeds in the foreground are potentially distracting.

Tip: A long focal length helps

Using a super telephoto focal length allowed me to close in on the most impactful parts on the scenes, ensuring the best balance between the dramatic blue and pinks and the dried tree silhouettes.


Find out how another photographer made even fuller use of the pink sky in:
Landscape Colours: Composing a Romantic Pink & Purple Seascape

Learn about some creative ways to incorporate pink (or other colours!) into your shot in:
Slow Shutter Art: 2 Ideas to Make Your Panning Shots More Interesting
How to Create Dreamy, Colourful Portraits with Foreground Bokeh

More unique landscape photography techniques in:
Minimalist Landscape Photography with the Sky
The Matrix Method: A Systematic Way to Add Variety to Your Shots
3 Situational Hacks by Quick-Thinking Photographers
2 Landscape Photography Tricks to Transform Your Images On the Spot


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Noriko Kita

Noriko Kita

After graduating from Toyo Eiwa University, Noriko Kita studied under veteran landscape photographer Shoichi Maekawa. She expresses themes related to Japan’s natural scenery through the skillful manipulation of light, colours, and form. As an amateur photographer, she earned many awards in contests, which motivated her to start a career as a freelance professional photographer. Besides her photo book MOMENT (published by Bun’ichi Sogo Shuppan), she has also co-authored publications such as Utsukushii Fuukei Shashin no Mai Ruuru [Unique Individual Rules for Beautiful Landscape Photos] (published by Impress). She is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society and the Photographic Society of Japan.