Behind the Photo – A Sunset Photo on the Beach

A few days ago I shared a post about a story behind how I took a photo of a sunrise on the beach. In that article, I mentioned that when I go on vacation, I see it as an opportunity to build my portfolio, especially when I don’t have any photos from those locations. So, when I say I seize the opportunity, I mean it. I probably spent every morning and evening roaming sand dunes and setting up my tripod. It was amazing!

This is another story behind the photo of a sunset photo on the beach. Like every story behind a photo, this one started out with research. I had seen a lot of photographs of a pier that had been badly damaged in a hurricane which made it look really cool. The pier looked like the perfect opportunity to get a sunset photo on the beach to put in my portfolio. So, I went to Google Maps and started to search for the exact pier I had seen in photos.

However, I had some difficulty finding it because I had no location to link back to. It turns out the pier is on public beach property that is accessible through Camp Helen State Park in Florida. I didn’t know that at the time, but I eventually found the pier on Google Maps when I turn on the aerial imagery option. I also had to find a public beach access point because I didn’t want to risk being lock out of, or locked in the state park’s gates.



All I had to do from that point on is show up and set up a compelling composition. But, I still had to answer the question of when do I show up? The first day we were in Florida, I watched the sky all day. Clear blue skies were being enjoyed by everyone but me because I wanted at least some clouds to produce amazing sunset colors! It was hard for me to see the entire sky where our house was, but I remembered that we had a balcony on the very top of the house. So, I made frequent trips to the top of the house to check on any cloud formations.

Finally, at about 3:00pm in the evening, some clouds started to form. I took out my PhotoPills app to see where the sun was actually going to set that day using the augmented reality feature. Success again! The sun was going to set right where the clouds were forming!

I grabbed my camera bag and headed to the beach. Walking up to the pier, I was very pleased because there weren’t many people around at all (which was surprising to me).

Whenever I get to a location I have a pretty good idea of what I want to shoot. This trips was no different. I knew I wanted to capture a shot of the pier with clouds formations that would look like they were bursting out from behind my subject.

This is a rough sketch of what I was hoping to shoot… very rough…


I set up my camera and started to wait for the show to start. Luckily my dad was with me to keep me company because it seemed like the sun was taking forever to set and there’s no telling how many times I readjusted my camera. Finally, right at the sun was getting close to the horizon, the clouds started to change color and fall into place…

I started to see my sketch come to life.


While I still with the clouds would have taken shape a little more firmly than they did, really showing a burst of color from behind the pier, I was still pleased with the overall end result of the photograph.