• March 9, 2015

A Photographer Who Isn’t a Fan of Sunsets

Becky Harlan

This post was originally published in March 2015. We’re resurfacing it as part of our #ThrowbackThursday effort to give some love to our favorite posts.—The Proof Team

Photographer Stefano Unterthiner recently posted a photo of a sunset on Instagram with this caption: “I’m not a big fan of sunsets, but yesterday evening was very special! The sky above my home in #Italy #valledaosta.” The reaction was mixed.

The photo received over 400,000 likes, but many of the thousands of comments on the image called him out on his proclaimed disdain for the setting of our solar system’s trusty star.

A photo posted by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Here are some examples:

  • “Don’t be dumb. Everyone loves a good sunset.”
  • “Usually not a big fan of sunsets, said no one ever except for this guy.”
  • “That’s like not liking the Beatles …”
  • “I bet you’re not a fan of many things.”
  • “Grrrrrr this sunset is making me so angry, puppies, newborns, and kittens are all the same …”
  • “wtf???”
  • Unterthiner wanted to explain himself, explain why he chose to post that particular image. “I was amazed by the shape of the clouds and the blue spot on the right corner. It was a balance of dark color, shape, and composition.”

    Picture of a group of swans walking on a snowy landscape at dusk
    Whooper swans at dusk, Hokkaido, Japan

    He’s not a beauty hater. In fact, he enjoys witnessing the sun sink beneath the horizon. “On the beach with my wife with a beer in my hand, I’m a lover of sunsets,” he says to me over the phone. But as a photographer, he’s looking for something more complex. “Sunsets are boring because everyone is taking photos of the sky getting red when the sun approaches the horizon. A very classic sunset is very far from photography—it’s very close to our memories and our pictures on holiday. It belongs more to your daily life than real photography.”

    “As a photographer I always try to have a new view. I’m looking for something which is not just about color. Color can be part of the composition but not the most important part. I’m not taking a picture of the sky just because it’s red.”

    Picture of a sunset over a mountainous landscape during a the fog of  snowfall
    A sunset during a snowfall in Aosta Valley, Italy

    So his goal is to use the changing light from the hours around sunrise or sunset to create images that are layered and unique. I asked him to explain what he’s looking for during those special hours.

    Picture of branches washed ashore on the beach before dusk on Bird Island, Seychelles
    Blue light before dusk at Bird Island, Seychelles

    Blue light is the first example he gave. “Blue light was very popular in Impressionist painting. They loved the blue light because it’s kind of magic, after sunset or before sunrise. It’s a kind of light without light, something between the night and the day. This particularly post-sunset light is much more interesting than the traditional sunset,” he says.

    Picture of a group of king penguins under a full moon a dusk
    King penguins under a full moon at dusk, Possession Island, Crozet archipelago

    Unterthiner also tries to include a subject other than the sunset in his images. For instance, animals.

    Picture of a brown bear in the misty woods in pre-dawn light that has a yellow tint
    A brown bear in the mist before sunrise, Vartius, Finland Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner

    Another thing he wants to capture? Mood. “As the sun approaches the horizon, the light becomes more warm. So at this time, looking around, not directly at the sun, forgetting about the sunset, the light can play a role in making the images more interesting. The light becomes warm and magical. It’s not about a classical sunset, but it’s about how the light can help to create a special mood.”

    Picture of a silhouette of a  guanaco walking along a ridgeline after sunrise
    A guanaco and clouds after a sunrise, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

    And finally, Unterthiner likes to play with contrast. “The last light before the sun sets, even before the blue light, is the light that you can play with to try to make some dark images. The bright light is in front of you, and everything you put against that bright light you can play with to make a silhouette. I’m shooting in color, but I really like black and white, and you can still photograph in color and get these kinds of black-and-white images. These kinds of images are always between something, before or after sunset.”

    Picture of whooper swans at sunset with ice in the foreground, Hokkaido, Japan
    Whooper swans at sunset, Hokkaido, Japan

    I asked Unterthiner for one last piece of advice to share with people interested in photographing sunsets. “Look at the sunsets you’ve shot before, and try to make a different one next time. It can be a nice memory to shoot the sunset in a different way. Don’t make the same picture all the time,” he says. And if that doesn’t work? “If you take a picture that looks similar to the last picture of a sunset you took, it’s better that you watch the sunset and put your camera in your bag.”

    Picture of two wandering albatross sitting in the grass in front of a body of water and another mountain at sunset
    Two wandering albatross at sunset, Possession Island, Crozet archipelago


    See more of Stefano Unterthiner’s work on his website, and follow him on Instagram.

    There are 28 Comments. Add Yours.

    1. Dr S Lakshminarasimhan
      March 16, 2015

      Naturally Great pictures. The pictures are very defining.

    2. KAY
      March 15, 2015


    3. Hal Steadman
      March 11, 2015

      I retired recently and bought a camera, you describe how I was approaching taken a photo, by colour, your photos and comments have me thinking, Thanks really nice photos!!

    4. Nora
      March 11, 2015

      Blazing and yet so misty. Each pic varies of other kind sunset pics, that we are used to see them in social networks. The photograph earns credits for pic’s tremendously unique theme depicted in blurry colors. In other words, LOVELY! 🙂

    5. Shannon wilkinson
      March 10, 2015

      well said. So many sunset images in my collection, but nothing really separates them. Then started to look around… And as you say, sometimes put that camera down.

    6. Kuldep Singh
      March 10, 2015

      Great job , with moods!

    7. Kuldep Singh
      March 10, 2015

      Great job dear, I love to photography how do I post my pic with watermark on net geo , please suggests

      • Becky Harlan
        March 10, 2015

        Hi Kuldep, you can post upload your photos to our Your Shot community. Join the community by visiting this url: http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com and then clicking “Join” in the top right corner of the page. If you want to use watermarks you have to add those before you upload them to the site.

    8. Shruthi V
      March 10, 2015

      Incredible shots!! 🙂

    9. Ayazkhan Pathan
      March 10, 2015

      Amazing photography friend, sunset and sunrise are very beautiful in all of them, m also a nature lover photographer and mostly of sunrise and sunset pixs. I had travelled almost Great Himalayas in my country India and taken pixs too, there are some of them on my FB pixs gallary. Keep moving on and on, God bless u and ur hobby means ur photography.

    10. bhima prasad maiti
      March 10, 2015

      Ijust ask you will there more common sun-rise &set.

    11. carlos de resende
      March 10, 2015

      Sunrises are not a part of everyones everyday life, are you a fan of sunrises?

    12. Yvette Abercrombie
      March 10, 2015

      Beautiful !

    13. Van
      March 10, 2015

      So beautiful!

    14. Nizamuddin Danwer
      March 9, 2015

      Fascinating & mesmerising photos.

    15. Marcio
      March 9, 2015

      wow, great post, nice to see these photos

    16. Vivien
      March 9, 2015

      These sunset scenes are truly unique, love them heaps!

    17. Luba
      March 9, 2015

      extraordinarily beautiful photos!

    18. patrizia
      March 9, 2015

      excellent job! my compliments!

    19. Viviane
      March 9, 2015

      Very nice! 😉

    20. Ross Loh
      March 9, 2015

      I agree. ‘Real photography’ (as opposed to everyday Instagram snaps) is about seeing things in a new light.

    21. Daniel
      March 9, 2015


    22. Seah Greenhorn
      March 9, 2015

      Very interesting angle.

    23. Hira Wakqas
      March 9, 2015

      Haha, wow.
      Great piece of art man. *-*

    24. Cheryl Dreyer
      March 9, 2015

      I must admit that there is a lot of truth in your opinion of taking photos of sunsets. One of my favourite photos was taken when i was trying to capture the sun setting over the mountains. When i turned my back on the boring sunset, I captured a photo that i like to call ‘the other side of sunset’. the light behind me was magical – almost missed it!

    25. omela
      March 9, 2015

      I simply love your images, some are even ethereal, you are truly talented.

    26. John Flemmng
      March 9, 2015

      There is something about a sunset that stirs most of us and we want to share it. Stefano’s photographs are beautiful.

    27. Florimont Van Gompel
      March 9, 2015

      I like them very much! Keep doing so!
      Many greatings from flor

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