I take a lot pictures. Mostly with my iPhone, but since I traveled a bunch this summer I was using my digital camera and my Holga film camera a lot too. Taking pictures starts when you see something you want to capture, but the first question I always ask is where is the picture spot.
In popular areas like National Parks there are always obvious picture spots. You see people standing on a certain rock to get the right view. I find myself either avoiding trees or aligning trees to perfectly frame a picture.
I watch the sunset every night from the roof deck of my building. I don’t need to find the picture spot. I just face west. And maybe I move a little north or south. But the spot is pretty set.
I took the above picture in Florida with my iPhone. It took me about four days to find the picture spot. I wanted to see the sunset on our first night there (and take a picture), and we were driving as the sun was sinking in the sky. I didn’t know where the picture spot was to see the sunset. Over the next few days I tried to find it. I went out into the road. Too many trees. I went down to the river. No clear view of the horizon. I stopped along the golf course by a lake. The angle was all wrong.
The key to finding the picture spot for a sunset is to start about 30 minutes before the published sunset time. This gives you time to move, but it also gives you the chance to take more pictures of various stages of setting. One night I walked across the street, between two houses, around the green on the golf course to the edge of a pond. I found what I thought was the spot and took lots of pictures. Not the one above.
I went to the same spot the next night. The clouds were better. And I took lots of pictures. As the sun was just about to sink below the treeline I noticed a bridge across the pond. I walked out on the bridge to catch one or two more fleeting moments of daylight. I didn’t know it, but I found the spot.
Even though the horizon line was one-third the way up the picture, the natural convergence point of the scene was centered. I shifted it to the right, so it was on a vertical third line. Snap. The perfect picture from the picture spot.