Shooting into sunset

Dear RAW enthusiasts,

recently I have tried shooting a sunset and I feel there could be more to achieve than I am capable of (a photo from my phone suggests so) and would love to see what you could do and, if possible, receive your advice.

I have shot three bracketed photos (handheld since I did not have a tripod at the spot) and tried both developing a single photo and merging them. For the second case I was not able to do that probably because of the hand shake and the movement of the sea. Developing the single image was much more successful but when I compare the result with a shot made on my phone, there just isn’t as much detail in the sky - but the information seems to be in the raw photo.

  1. What would be your best result given the raw images?

  2. How to get the detail in the sky? (preferably in darktable)

  3. Is it possible to merge these poorly made bracketed photos by some open source tool? How?

  4. Except for using a tripod, what could I have done better when taking the photos?

My take on the single raw:

and the xmp:
IMG_6462.CR2.xmp (18.1 KB)

The three raw photos:
IMG_6461.CR2 (28.4 MB)
IMG_6462.CR2 (26.7 MB)
IMG_6463.CR2 (30.5 MB)

The photo from my phone:

Thank you in advance for your suggestions and creations!

The files is licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike.

Here is my version…

Tried to keep the gist of the phone picture (besides the rat piss sunset, couldn’t get over me :-D).

edit: o well, don’t think this needs bracketing at all - so I just used a not blown out shot. As I’m thinking about it, I didn’t look at the sharpnes of the darkest image, maybe that would have been even better :thinking:

edit2: Regarding your questions… (2) Details in the sky can be restored with the tone equalizer in combination with some sort of local contrast (I overdid it a bit here, to show whats possible).
(4) I think a tripod isn’t necessary IMO. If you want the look of the phone image, than a faster shutter speed is needed anyway and with let’s say 1/100 a tripod won’t do much. For some motion blur things look different, obviously.

Thanks for sharing these images.
I converted the raws with Filmulator then used image_align_stack in the terminal. I tried Enblend, but was not happy with the result, so I pulled the stack into GIMP and used masks to treat sky, land and sea separately. I may try again as the result could be better.

To align images (and blend, create panoramas) Hugin is available and is open-source.
After converting the RAWs with Filmulator I put them into an empty folder, opened the terminal in that folder, and used Hugin from the terminal.
Laziness on my part, rather than opening Hugin directly!

@qmpel Thank you for the edit, I really like it, could you please also share the xmp file?

Sure, here is the xmp…

IMG_6461.CR2.xmp (22.6 KB)

The develop history is also in the JPG file, so you can also use the JPG file to load as sidecar.

Something like this:
With DT 4.4.2

20230828_IMG_6461.CR2.xmp (9,2 KB)

Too bad you caught the plane with your cell phone and not the camera. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:


hdrmerge and darktable, one boring edition.

My quick attempt trying to match your phone shot, just using the first raw file. :smiley:
IMG_6461.CR2.xmp (13.7 KB)

Most important to pull back colour preservation in sigmoid to get those blown yellows round the sun…

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It looks like the land is monochrome?

My version…

IMG_6461.CR2.xmp (13.2 KB)

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IMG_6462.CR2.xmp (25.5 KB)


My fun

@Zbyma72age Thank you for the edit, could you please share the xmp file?


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GIMP does not make this possible.

Thanks for the image. My attempt using DT 4.4.2.

The sunset behind the building was a bit of a challenge. The question was to either highlight the sunset or highlight the building. hmm… Anyway - my version.

IMG_6462.CR2.xmp (15.6 KB)

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IMG_6461.CR2.xmp (11.7 KB)

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Most of the edits here have a peachy color of the sun, so have my sunset pictures - how to avoid that?

My preferred method of I want this is to use sigmoid, not filmic, and pull the preserve hue slider all the way down (or part way). That swings the bright pinky bits towards yellow in most cases.