How to Enjoy a Sunset at Sea

The setting sun lights up the water and the ship’s walkway during an evening of our recent cruise. Read all about how to enjoy a sunset at sea at Burnsland.

The setting sun lights up the water and the ship’s walkway during an evening of our recent cruise.

As you can see, the sunset was quite beautiful that night. And that wasn’t even the best sunset of our cruise, if you can believe that. The sunset a few nights later was even better, if you can imagine such a thing. And if you can’t just wait around for some photos. Or check this one early photo that I posted right after we returned home. But there are lots more where that one came from.

For each night where we had a good sunset, I was surprised that there weren’t more people out enjoying the view. There were a few people back behind us because I had walked away from the door out to this walkway so that there wouldn’t be any people in the photo, but there weren’t very many people. And occasionally someone would run outside, take a quick photo with their phone, and then run right back inside. I guess watching sunsets isn’t everyone’s thing. Also, the sunset time conflicted with the early dinner seating time, so probably around half of the passengers were inside at one of the restaurants. And there may have been more people watching the sunset from the upper decks instead of down here where we were, too, but we couldn’t see them from where we were.

So how can you enjoy a nice sunset on your cruise? Or really anywhere, actually? Here are some tips:

  1. First off, get the later dinner time if you can, because that is usually after the sunset time. The time of the actual sunset can vary depending on where you are in the time zone, so this is sometimes hit or miss. And the sunset time will even vary for different nights of your cruise. And we didn’t have much time from when the sun went down until our dinner time, either, not that it was ever a problem.
  2. Next, know where the sun is setting. Obviously, the sun always sets in the west, but it is a good idea to know which side of the ship is facing the west. That depends on which way you are sailing, of course. A pretty easy step to follow, but I thought I would throw it in here anyway.
  3. Scope out your spot ahead of time. This doesn’t involve any long preparation, but when you are making your way around the ship during the day, notice where you might want to watch the sunset from. An area with chairs might be ideal, although as you can see here there weren’t chairs for us to sit in. So we just stood. Anyway, decide if you want to watch it from up high, or from down low. Or if you happen to have a balcony on the side of the ship where the sun is setting, you just hit the jackpot.
  4. Get there a few minutes early. The view is nice well before the sun actually goes down. And you can enjoy the early evening air coming in from over the water, something us landlocked folks don’t get to do all that often. That will also help if you are wanting to get a photo, so that you can stake out your spot and see where the other people in the area might be.
  5. Have your camera ready. If you are adjusting the settings on your camera, use a low ISO setting (100 or so), and a small aperture setting (f/18-f/22). You are looking right into the sun after all, even if its rays are dispersed some by the atmosphere as it goes down, so you don’t want to damage your camera’s sensor by letting in too much light. Also, the smaller aperture setting can give you a nice starburst effect on the sun as it goes down. With a wide aperture, it would just look like a big blob of bright light. That’s how the sun always looks to me anyway, so you might as well make it look different in a photo if you can.
  6. Enjoy it. Don’t spend so much time planning your spot or planning your photo that you miss seeing and enjoying the sunset. It really is spectacular sometimes, even if you don’t have the photo to prove it.

By the way, this photo is one of the ones that will be included in the next part of our 2016 Cruise to Mexico trip report, so be sure to read about all that went on that evening!

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. - Psalm 113:3

About the Photo

This photo actually involved a bit of Photoshop manipulation to get it to look like I wanted it to look. I wanted to bring out the blues of the sky and the water, but I also wanted the golden sunlight to glow on the ship. So using different color temperature settings in Adobe Camera Raw, I opened two different exposures of the same photo from the same Raw file. I then used layer masks to mask out the water and sky from the golden exposure, letting the blue versions from the layer underneath show through. Check some of the different posts from Steve’s Photography Tips for more about how to do all of this, by the way.

Here is a before-and-after version from the original photo to the final version. Instead of the standard left/right split, I went with a diagonal split this time. Otherwise, you would have just seen the normal water and sky and the processed ship deck, instead of seeing some of the changes to both.


Photo: A single Raw exposure, processed in Photoshop. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Lens: Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
Date: July 17, 2016
Location: The Gulf of Mexico

2016 Cruise to Mexico

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.