Photoessay: Australian sunsets

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Boats under sky. This image is available as a 16×12″ Ultraprint in an edition of 20, here. Please include your telephone number for the courier at checkout.

Everybody likes a good sunset – I suppose it’s an age-old thing programmed deep into our DNA from the days when surviving to the end of the day was worthy of a celebration; not getting eaten or dying of disease was probably a good thing. Today it may be nothing more than the relief of surviving the boss or excitement at the start of the evening’s entertainment, but the satisfaction factor hasn’t changed. Every photographer has probably tried it at least once, and probably more, no matter how much it pains us to admit it. So why deny it at all? If anything, I’ll be the first to admit that doing something different is extremely challenging given the nature of the subject matter and limitations of perspective and position. It’s even more difficult because the very intense colors of an Australian sunset challenge the dynamic range of pretty much every camera – even the medium format monsters, requiring very careful exposure to avoid clipping a channel. Sit back and enjoy, whatever time it may be in your part of the world. MT

This series is presented in approximately chronological order, and was shot at various locations along the Western Australian coast on the Indian Ocean between Geraldton and Francois Peron National Park. I used a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in the Weekly Workflow.

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Masterclass Prague (September 2016) is open for booking.


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Carlos Polk says:

    There is really nothing I can add to your very well received essay except thanks very much for this series of magnificent photos.
    Highest Regards,

  2. I visited Melbourne in 2000. It was total 23 hours in the air with extreme pain in my ears on every landing, and there were quite a few on route. I look at your photographs and I absolutely want to go there again no matter what. This time I will get myself armed with my gear and I will absolutely try to do some sunsets. These are exquisite.

    • Thanks – though I’d suggest stopping off a bit earlier in Perth or Darwin and heading north or west respectively; it’s both closer and the sunsets are better (at least in my experience of having lived in Melbourne for 9 years…)

  3. s wolters says:

    The first one is incredible. Are you sure that it was at this planet?

  4. I love the one with the black swirling clouds. Have you seen the Richard Misrach series (large format) of views of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Berkeley hills across the Bay, in all kinds of weather? Brilliant. I have a question: Were any of these images taken with a long exposure? I ask because in some of them the water appears so calm, without ripples.

  5. Best series on sunsets I’ve seen! The tonality is unmatched. A few of them made me say ahhhhhh! Very relaxing and tranquil looking at them!

  6. Hubert Chen says:

    Wonderful Images. They are amazing just in on themselves. But what blows my mind is your ability to produce amazing images across such a wide envelope of topics. To study your pictures in context of all others, trying to find your individual style in each of them is adding yet another level of fun! Thank you to put a smile on my face on my Saturday morning read 🙂

  7. Jorge Balarin. says:

    Ultra beautiful set of photos.

  8. We are indeed blessed in Australia to have such colors in our skies. You are right that presenting a sunrise or sunset in a fashion that captures the interest of the viewers is a challenge – one that you have handled well with the first and last images by providing additional elements that are perhaps the true subjects (i.e., the boats and the Moon).

    By the way, the stretch of coast that you featured here is known (for good reason) “The Sunset Coast”.

    🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

  9. Impressive colour, Ming! Do they require a lot of colour correction in post, or some, or none?

    • Thanks. Close to none; just had to be careful not to let individual channels clip especially when there’s only information in one channel (usually, red)…

  10. These are probably the most spectacular sunset images I’ve ever seen! Well done Ming!

  11. Beautiful photos

  12. Some very nice sunsets here, I especially like the first one. I wonder how these images compare to reality. I feel like I don’t really “get” the composition of number 14 though. Wile the other images instantly feel right to me, number 14 doesn’t, and I think it’s because the trees register as “emptiness” too much, which makes it feel unbalanced.

    I’m going to keep these compositions in my mental library to try myself when there’s an opportunity. I must admit I’ve never shot a sunset I was happy with…

  13. A fantastic collection of sunsets.

  14. These are beautiful Ming… i think clouds are always required for a magnificent sunset… from south oz : )

  15. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    LOL – you appear to have slipped on the same banana skin as I have, Ming. I recently set myself as a “project” studying the light around sunset (before, during & after). I have been struck by the fact it’s not just a matter of “looking west”, and that some of the most interesting effects are to be found looking in all the other directions. I have tried drawing the attention of other people to the extraordinary colours that are in the sky – all over the sky – from west to east, north to south, and all other directions. And I mostly get a polite “yes”, followed by the head turning. I find this rather sad.

    So I was struck by the variety you have injected into your studies of the sunsets off the coast here – I love these photographs – thanks for the post.

    • I actually think it’s not just not looking west, but also waiting til after the sun has gone down – though reproducing that and getting the color right is quite another thing!

  16. Stunning shots, perhaps with the exception of no. 13 and 14, where I’m not quite following you. I also mike the idea of shooting sunsets in portrait orientation.

    • Thanks. 13 and 14 work better with more information. There’s this particular odd mood that happens just after the sun sinks into a clear blue sky – the light is cool but still warm, which is what I was trying to capture. It doesn’t quite work at web sizes because a lot of the subtle blue-purple gradation that communicates this is gone…

  17. Nothing like a bit of colour and drama to liven up a winter afternoon here in Melbourne – thanks! Particularly like the second last, probably because of all the warm evenings I’ve spend walking down similar sandy tracks in various parts of Aus.

  18. richard majchrzak says:

    yes , the first one is it. i think number 15 looks familiar, from Geraldton to the beach through the sand dunes and these weird bushes?

  19. Vincent Zhang says:

    I’m pretty sure it isn’t the beer I’m drinking, but you’ve managed to capture a certain elemental magic that my eyes only gave me glimpses of, and I grew up there. Amazing set of pictures, absolutely wonderful, especially the leading photo.

    • Beer definitely helps. 🙂

      • Such a nice sunset should be enjoyed with chilled beer in one hand and a camera in another hand. 🙂
        Excellent set. Although I am not sure whether these are candidate for ultraprint. There is not enough high frequency tonal variation.

        • Thanks. There is high frequency detail in all of them, but remember print resolution is not just about detail – it’s also about smoothness of tonal transitions, which these require in spades…

  20. Karl Holm says:

    We have seen ample examples of how you struggle to make certain subjects more interesting by means of technical superiority and, not in the least, high end equipment. But is this really all you want to be? I, for one, would love to see all your “essays-about-the-philosphy-of-taking-great-images”-attempts into work. Because I just don’t see it – at least not here.

    I’ve been following your site for quite some time now, but I realise, more and more, that I’m increasingly interested in you’re estimate of the potential usage of new equipment, rather than your actual output, which simply doesn’t own up to your words – and if you have any notion of aesthetics – which I know you do, you know that it is at its core not subjective. You do excel in early appreciation of new equipment, and for that I and many others no doubt are most grateful, maybe stick to that? Just a thought.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I have no interest in being a reviewer, nor does the readership have any interest in paying for my time to do so. If you choose to single out a single set of images out of the thousands I’ve posted across different styles and genres to say you think my work is disappointing, I can only suggest you look in the archives, or perhaps accept that we have a different idea of what constitutes aesthetically pleasing. However, I’ve long ago decided not to pay too much attention to what anybody but the client thinks – either the paying hirer or myself. The audience here is a free one – free to come, free to view, free to leave. But judging from the majority of responses, I don’t think my aesthetic is too far off the mark.

    • I’m sorry, Karl, but I find this a very unfair comment and the “career advice” is just inappropriate and comes across as rude…

    • Stuart Foster says:

      Karl….no doubt there are likely many people who would agree with your assessment of Ming’s images, and that they too “don’t see it”, but there are also many who would very much disagree with your assessment. I believe it takes some time to try to understand the artist’s intentions and appreciate how the various elements go together. Perhaps you just haven’t reached that point yet. Or maybe, like Ming says, you just have a different aesthetic sense…which contradicts your statement that aesthetics is “at its core not subjective”.

      If you really believe that aesthetics is not subjective then you presume to speak for everyone through your criticism…which is a very large and erroneous presumption.

  21. The dynamic feel of #7906 really hits the mark. I can see that my own sunset colors processing needs work…

    • Sunsets are actually quite tricky to do right because it’s very easy to land up with clipped single channels, which in turn affect the output because often most of the information in the sky lies in one channel (blue or red) and can’t be recovered in the same way as subjects that span multiple channels…

  22. What a lovely set, Ming!

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