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Old Dock Pilings, Barnegat Bay, New Jersey Old Dock Pilings, Barnegat Bay, New Jersey

Time after time, I am in position to photograph the sunset with many other photographers and observers around me. It is (usually) lots of fun talking to those nearby, but ... as soon as the sun goes behind the horizon, most people pack up and leave.
Last week, the same thing was happening as I was bayside in Seaside Park, NJ. Right after the sun disappeared, a friendly photographer came over and asked if I got "it" while showing me his favorite pic of the setting sun. I replied that I did, but indicated that the main show was likely still to come. He said that he liked to see the sun's reflection best. My thought was that his preference is fine, that we are all different, that I too like the sun's reflection and that I was still expecting the best yet to come.
Fortunately, this gentleman had enough question about my opinion vs. his that he stuck around. Fifteen minutes was all that was needed. The color in the sky was very impressive on this evening and Barnegat Bay was very calm. About 25 minutes after the sun set, the other photographer returned very excited. Upon a quick review of his website the next day, I found only one picture from that evening. One captured well after the sun had set.
Unless I am shooting landscape that the setting sun is directly lighting, I am usually more found of my post-sunset images. This image was my favorite from the night (though I have many close runners-up).
This is an HDR image, comprised of three exposures used to balance the overall brightness of the final image.
While an f/2 max aperture lens invites many uses in addition to landscape photography, the focal length range of the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens is great for this use. Since the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens was what I was evaluating at the time, I put it to use for my sunset session. It performed excellently.

24mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Sand Fence at Island Beach State Park, NJ Sand Fence at Island Beach State Park, NJ

Even though beautiful, it sometimes takes effort and creativity to find interesting photo compositions at a beach. At Island Beach State Park (near Seaside Park, New Jersey), I was exploring when I discovered this sand fence creating great late-day shadows in the nearly undisturbed sand. The undisturbed sand on the unrestricted side of the fence is not easy to find. The late day sun is of course often available.
I captured many compositions of this scene, but for this shot, I angled the camera and aligned the sun so that the fence was blocking most of it. This in combination with a narrow f/16 aperture allowed a bright starburst effect that helps set off an already attractive image.
Always be looking for one more way to improve your image.

17mm  f/16.0  1/40s  ISO 200
Waves in the Sand Waves in the Sand

Angled sunlight creates a pattern of shadows in the wind-driven waves of sand in this picture. Depth of field is a concern in such a photo. While f/11.0 is a very narrow aperture for an APS-C-sized sensor, the 32mm focal length uses up the DOF it creates in this photo.

32mm  f/11.0  1/125s  ISO 400
Hurricane Sandy-Damaged Pier Hurricane Sandy-Damaged Pier

While the incredible sunset over Barnegat Bay captures your attention first, it is the pier that tells the story. Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Jersey coast and this pier going out into Barnegat Bay remains witness to the event.
This is an HDR image. Read the HDR article in the tips section of the site for the full story on this one.

16mm  f/11.0  20s  ISO 100
Wild Rose at Island Beach State Park Wild Rose at Island Beach State Park

Sometimes, taking your wife to the roses is better than taking the roses to your wife. Remember that.
I employed the "Rule of Thirds" for this composition (in a not-too-strict fashion). I allowed the green color to run through the frame about 1/3 of the way down from the top and centered the rose bush at about 1/3 of the way from the right. A clean top and bottom edge of the frame are often welcomed.

17mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Sand Fence, Island Beach State Park Sand Fence, Island Beach State Park

The sand at Island Beach State Park, especially after being refreshed by Hurricane Sandy, was very white. Color enters this picture via a late day sun reflecting off of a bleached wooden sand fence. The shadow tones, lacking direct sunlight, take on a much cooler tone. Another photography benefit of the sand fence is that it prevents people from disturbing the sand on the other side, leaving only photogenic wind ripples.

18mm  f/11.0  1/125s  ISO 400
Rainbow of Color in White Sand Rainbow of Color in White Sand

The natural pattern of wind-blown sand is irresistable for landscape photographers. These never-the-same natural patterns scream out to us. For a variation, I located sand ripples that were being directly-lit (at an angle) for a white tone, shaded for a blue tone and lit by the reflection of a sand fence for an orange/red tone. The result was a rainbow of colors - with the requisite rippled texture present.

18mm  f/8.0  1/250s  ISO 400
Dune Grasses at Island Beach State Park Dune Grasses at Island Beach State Park

Light from a setting sun illuminates the top of the dune grasses at Island Beach State Park near Seaside Park, NJ.
Good landscape photos do not need to have the entire frame in sharp focus. But, what is out of focus probably needs to look like it is supposed to be out of focus.

155mm  f/2.8  1/200s  ISO 100
Sunset on the East Coast Beach, Island Beach State Park Sunset on the East Coast Beach, Island Beach State Park

East coast beaches are usually better situated for sunrises than sunsets and Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park in New Jersey, is usual in this regard.
A habit I have while photographing at the edges of the day, is to make regular glances to the east, "watching my back". While that habit may apply to safety in some locations, I'm referring to the lighting and color in the sky. It is natural for us to watch and photograph the sun rising or setting, but often great images are found behind you at these times of the day.
While photographing the colorful post-sunset sky to the west on this evening, I took that glance to the east. What I saw was that the color in the sky was visible toward the north while the rest of the easterly scene was very evenly lit. The ultra-wide 14mm focal length lens' angle of view was sufficient to capture that color along with the Atlantic Ocean and lots of sand in the foreground. To add some foreground interest, I moved in close to the sand fence post, placing it approximately 1/3 into the frame with the beach fishing party framed between it and the dunes to the left.
While the lighting was rather even, I still used a combination of three 1-stop-different exposures combined via a manual HDR process to darken the brightest portion of the sky relative to the rest of the beach scene.
Capturing a colorful sky is just one of the many reasons that your kit should have 14mm covered.

14mm  f/11.0  3.2s  ISO 100
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