This was one of those warm summer evenings where it was just perfect down on the waters of Sydney Harbour watching the sun set behind the sydney skyline.

Along with this amazing sunset view, a lucky group of film buff’s were enjoying the outdoor twilight cinema just to the left of this position. Theres a giant screen in the water and everyone sits in the botanical gardens watching the film. So, whilst I watched the sun set I was able to enjoy the sounds of the cinema… it was pleasant.

I had climbed a fence to get to the location I was in and was perched on top of a small rock face hidden from footpath by large ferns and shrubs. I had the area to myself which gave the whole experience a sense of solitude, even though there were people probably 15-20 metres away. This possum kept coming up to me and looking at me curiously, as I was obvioulsy in his thoroughfare… the look said “hey what are you doing here? this is my rockface!”. He made for a cute distraction whilst I made my long exposure images of the sunset. I did make a couple of bracketed images for an HDR image but I just loved this 7 minute exposure of the sunset as the clouds moved across the sky which was changing from warm to cool.

Shooting and editing:

This one is a 430 second exposure on my Sony A7r using Neutral Density filters combined with a circular polariser. The use of a polariser isn’t necessary but it will help to give you more contrast between the brights and darks in your skies. I used a 10 stop ND + 3 stop ND to push out the exposure times to get the colourful sunset clouds streaking across the sky, as well as the silky smooth effect in the water.

Deciding to shoot a 7 minute exposure of a sunset is something you have to decide early on because the brilliant light in a sunset might only last a few minutes. You also have to take into account that your camera will take a few minutes to compute all the data from the 7 minute exposure. I shoot on a Sony A7r with class 10 SD cards and often it takes about 3 minutes for the camera to process a 7 minute exposure. So I know in real time that is about 10 minutes until i can shoot another image… a millenium during a sunset. Ideally you would have 2 cameras going shooting brackets on one and long exposures on the other.

When editing this image it took about 4-5 hours of post-processing. I decided early on that the main focus to me was the sydney opera house and then secondly the warm to cool light graduation in the sky. So with this heirachy I began the edit with these goals in focus trying to achieve my vision. I wanted the opera house to stand out like a warm jewel amongst a sea of colour and I think I’ve managed to achieve that. I used a lot of techniques to achieve this but most importantly is the use of hard selections combined with luminosity masks. For example a few of the manual selections I created were the sky, seperate selections for the water as well as a selection for the opera house. This means I can use gradients and luminosity masks within those selections and not change the rest of the composition. It’s a very very powerful way to edit images.

Here is an example of me using a hard selection + gradient mask + pro contrast filter from NIK CEP4



You can leave a comment below,

Thanks, Luke


Sony A7r


Sony FE 28-70mm

Focal Length




Shutter Speed

430.0 seconds OR 7 mins 10 secs


ISO 800


ND 10 stop + ND 3 stop + Circular Polariser


5 Feb, 2014


8:35 pm


Sydney Harbour, Australia

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Please use this contact form for any enquiries and we will get back to you asap. Thanks :-) Thanks, Luke