By Sarah Farquhar

Camera: Canon EOS 550D

Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens

Exposure: 13 seconds at f/14 (ISO 100)

Sarah says: «The sunsets at St Bees beach are amazing. On this occasion I went down at high tide to do some long-exposure photography. I decided to use the rocks as the foreground interest. I used an ND grad filter to balance the sky and retain detail in the darker foreground.»

• LEE FROST: Sunset by the sea is hard to beat when moody images are your goal, but with so many creative options at your disposal it can sometimes be hard to decide which way to go. When I look at Sarah’s image I see exactly that — there was great potential in the location and the light, but she didn’t quite pull it off.

I feel like I’m looking at a slightly cropped version of a wider view because either Sarah’s lens wasn’t wide enough to get all of the scene in, or she didn’t back off enough. Either way, the rocks breaking into the bottom of the shot look odd because we can only see part of them, but really they needed to be fully revealed to make the composition work.

The other option would have been to zoom in, ignoring the foreground rocks completely, and opt for a simpler composition with the three darker rocks in the middle distance captured in silhouette against the soft sea and warm sky. Those rocks contrast well against the blurred sea and make for a much more tranquil image. Take a look at the panel on the right to see how it might work, though ideally it needs more sky to move away from the semi-panoramic composition I’ve ended up with. Verdict: A moody image that works better when simplified.

• ROSS HODDINOTT: I do like the simplicity of this photo. I’m a right sucker for blurred, milky water, so like the effect Sarah has captured here, with the smooth rocks just poking up out of the water. While this is a nice shot. I think Sarah could have done just slightly better compositionally. I find my eye gets drawn to that slither of reddish-coloured rock in the immediate foreground — I think Sarah either needed to include more, or none of it. The same applies to the rock just creeping into the bottom — right corner. I don’t feel there is enough linking the foreground rocks with the larger, darker ones in the distance. I can’t help but wonder if a vertical composition might have worked better here, allowing Sarah to make more of a feature of those lovely foreground rocks? Overall, I like the effect and idea, and Sarah’s obviously a very capable photographer -both technically and creatively However, for me this is an ‘almost’ shot. Try again, Sarah, employing the same idea, but with a slightly stronger composition. Verdict: A moody image and nice effect, but for me the composition isn’t quite strong enough.


Sarah has done a good job of capturing the scene, but there are a few tweaks to make it even better. We’ve started by using the Clone Stamp Tool to even out the tone of the sea as it was too dark on the left of the image. We’ve also boosted the colours, as the original looks a little flat. Finally, using the Crop Tool to remove the rocks in the foreground has transformed the image, although revisiting this location to include a bit more sky or a bit more foreground would be the ideal solution.

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