Photograph a Gulf Coast Sunset at Clearwater Beach

Added by Jeff Driscoll

If you live on the East Coast, there is nothing better than capturing a Gulf Coast Sunset. Clearwater Beach has sand as soft as powdered sugar, great food, and best of all amazing sunsets.

If you find yourself near the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg areas, I highly recommend taking a trip out to Clearwater Beach. On Clearwater Beach, you'll find sand softer than anything your feet have ever felt, lots of places to relax, great food, good people-watching, and best of all some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see.

If you go there to capture a beautiful sunset, as I did, I would recommend bringing a DSLR camera because you'll want to be able to capture a RAW image to get the full range of colors and detail. I use a Sony A7 Full Frame as my go-to travel camera because it has all the full frame goodness of a full-size DSLR, but since it is a mirrorless camera, it's not as bulky for travel.

I took the above images using a Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm Full Frame lens. I didn't bring a tripod and instead chose to increase my ISO to let enough light in at a fast shutter speed so that my images weren't blurry. Yes, this will add some noise, but I chose to remove that during my post-processing steps. For the pictures above I used an ISO setting of 125-200 (depending on how dark it was), my aperture was set at 7.1, and my shutter speed was anywhere between 1/40 of a second and 1/125 of a second. If you choose to bring a tripod you can probably keep your ISO at 100 and just work with your shutter speed and aperture to get the desired exposure.

A few more details about my photos, I shoot all my pictures in Aperture Priority Mode and as "bracketed images." Bracketed Images are where you take one image at 0 exposure, one at +2 exposure, and one at -2 exposure. I then combine them later during my post-processing steps to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) images.

When post-processing my images I use a variety of different software and plugins. I usually begin in Lightroom and make some minor adjustments. Then I will use Macphun's Aurora HDR Pro to combine the bracketed images into one HDR image. Next, I will use Photoshop's layers to blend certain aspects of the HDR image with a non-HDR image. Then depending on the look I am going for, I will usually run the image through a few plugins and use the layers for blending again. At this step I may be reducing noise in the sky, using Topaz Textures to add texture effects, or using Macphun Intensify to add intensity to part of the image. It all just depends on the look that I want the final product to have.

Now that I've shared some tips and tricks on capturing images like the ones above, what else is there to do in Clearwater? Well, there is a lot!!! You can go parasailing, relax on the beach, rent a jet-ski, people-watch, or eat some great food and have a cocktail, just to name a few things. I chose to eat dinner, have a margarita, and do some people-watching from the second story balcony of Crabby's Beachwalk Bar and Grill. Crabby's is down from Pier 60 on South Gulfview Blvd, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. The vibe of the restaurant was fun with someone playing an acoustic guitar and singing entirely appropriate songs for the beach. The waitresses were also friendly and made sure your drinks stayed full at all times, another must for relaxing on the beach. On the menu, they have great fresh fish selections. I had the fish tacos which were wonderful. I highly recommend chilling at Crabby's before or after your sunset photo shoot. Enjoy!!!

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Adult Beverages
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area


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Overall rating: 

Picture Perfect

Great way to end your day in Florida. The sunsets always seem to be perfect, and Clearwater Beach is a perfect spot to get some great pictures and see some awesome colors.

Great Beach With Great Views

One of the best beaches around! West view is awesome from many spots for sunset and sunrises are not too bad either!

Best Beach in Florida

The sand here is amazing. Makes for a great sunset spot, I recommend going to the end of the pier and visiting the pelicans while you watch the sun go down! :)

It's Just Awesome!

The only bad thing is the parking on the beach, but besides that it's perfect to walk with your couple, family or friends

Beautiful beach With An Incredible Sunset

Miles of beach to walk with the person that matters most to you. The sun sets perfectly on the West coast and provides for many magical moments for those with a camera or go pro.

Stay Nearby

Palm Harbor, Florida

Clearwater / Lake Tarpon KOA

St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg / Madeira Beach KOA

Davenport, Florida

Orlando Southwest KOA

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