please look behind you when the sun is setting

Please look behind you By Derek Cummings – Academy of Photography member Maybe it is because of the rebel in me. As a young lad I never conformed. That even […]

Please look behind you

By Derek Cummings – Academy of Photography member

Maybe it is because of the rebel in me. As a young lad I never conformed. That even now I refuse to conform but to  look, watch, listen, and do my own thing.  I am happy to take images in cities, love snapping portraits with candid shots my favourites. I will sometimes be found enjoying the odd pop concert, even in my mid 60,s, if allowed to take my camera. But landscape is my first love. I view photographer often as art itself. We use colour. And often wait patiently for the right light, that moment when at the click of the shutter, we have the shot we may have waited patiently for many weeks, or in some cases, years.

Living in South Wales, UK, we are blessed with many beautiful places with which to immerse ourselves in the craft we love best. Photography. When the sun is falling into a glorious setting to herald the end of day, many popular spots will often have banks of camera’s, as photographers attempt to capture a perfect sunset. The next day these images will be viewed with many looking much like the one before it. Yet often, unnoticed, in that same glorious golden light cast by the last rays of the sun, is a rare beauty waiting for a perfect capture of the lens. The pity is the banks of photographers continue to look intently forward, towards the setting sun, oblivious to what is behind and in many cases the scene that is really magical, is lost. When I scout for beauty to capture with my lens the major interest is –  where will the sun be setting. Will the sun shine its glory over the scene I am surveying during the golden hour, and provide a rich scene of  light with golden hues.  And only if the scene I am interested in is to be lit up by the ‘golden light’ will that place be etched into my diary for revisiting at the right moment in time.


Near where I live is a statue that I visited many times in an attempt to capture an image that would be pleasing to my eye. Each image failed to impress and was deleted, as after all, statues are usually grey, and in many cases, rather tired looking. But still this statue captured my imagination so I set about planning an image that was different. More special.

I  visited many times in an attempt to capture the suns rays on the statue. Always failing with the light shining on the wrong spot. More imagination was needed. I  realised if I wanted the image I craved, I would need to take advantage of  the golden hour with the setting sun in front of Our Lady to light up her face.  Plans went into action with the help of a recent iphone application called  Photopills. The software allowing me to determine not only if what I wanted was possible, but if it was, at what time and what dates would I have to take the shot.

The problem when planning a shot such as I wanted is the sun  would only be in the right spot for a very few times a year at most. The setting sun had to shine directly in front of Our Lady to provide that golden glow I needed. I soon had ten possible dates for the shot to tick off that ambition. Five in March, five September. Now all I needed was for the sun to shine for a minute or two when needed  to get the shot.



I used a Canon 550d on a tripod with 55-250 lens. Focal length was 55mm. ISO  100.  I chose aperture priority as shutter speed was not an issue as the camera was on a tripod and the statue was not a moving subject. I set the camera for a two second delay to ensure there was no movement of the camera during the shot.

The following day I revisited the statue and took a daytime shot. Aperture was F11. ISO 100. Aperture priority. Little work has been done in post production with only sharpening and clarity improved slightly.

The lesson here in this short article is please look behind you when the sun is setting. You may shoot some astonishing images by doing just that.


Derek Cummings



About Guest Contributor