I am interested to know why are some of my pictures turning out this way. For example if you take a look at the sunset I took below, clarity and generally image quality is fine around the sun and clouds, but hills are all kind of greyed out and blurry, which was important part of my shot.

A sunset picture I took

Why for example on the other photo below, you also have a strong sun, but the bottom part is sharp and looks good? Not minding the post processing, which I don't think is the main issue here.

A sunset picture taken by someone else

I have a nikon D3100 which is an entry DSLR so I am not sure if it's because of the camera or something else. Is this dynamic range problem?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What were your exposure settings (shutter speed, ISO, and aperture)? \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 15:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @scottbb It was 1/80, 200, f/11. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ A bit off topic but I would use a graduated ND filter for the first photo. This could be used to darken the sky and add exposure to the foreground. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bonzo
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 12:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The upper image looks much, much better IMO. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 12:56

4 Answers 4


There is no problem with this photograph, there is a 'problem' with the scene. There is a lot of dust in the air.

The dust in the air scatters light around, therefore you 'lose' light from the mountains, and mountains get darker as they are further away. And light coming from other directions is added to the light coming from the mountains, which makes them fade or gray out. We can clearly see that it gets worse when mountains are further away.

There are 3 ways to mitigate the 'problem':
1) Improve the scene; come back after it has rained.
2) Appreciate the beauty of it, this is also what it looked like in real life.
3) Use the 'dehaze' feature in post to reduce the problem.

If you don't have Photoshop, you can use the free program Darktable for haze removal. It is a very advanced program, but it is a bit more difficult to use than Photoshop.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "come back after it has rained" - won't that cause the same issue with fog? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft depends on the location. Warm climates burn off the potential for fog, so the atmosphere is clearest the day after storms. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm a fan of option #2, that scene looks fine! \$\endgroup\$
    – verandaguy
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 16:27

As others have pointed out, a large part of the difference between the two is the air quality at the time the image was captured. One was taken in what appears to be fairly clear, dry air. The other was taken through air that was very hazy due to either dust, moisture, or both.

Beyond that, there are a few other noticeable differences:

  • The first image is focused on the clouds well beyond the landscape in the foreground. This causes the foreground to be fairly out of focus.
  • The second image is focused on the tree line. The clouds and sun in the distance are out of focus, but this is less noticeable because the closest things are the most in focus. This is more what our eyes tend to expect.
  • The tree line in the second photo appears to be much closer than the horizon of the landscape in the first image.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think we can be sure that the dust/moisture levels were in any way different. The hills in the first photo seem to be kilometres away; the trees could be mere hundred metres, not enough for the haze to take effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – IMil
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IMil The high clouds in the second image are far enough that any haze would affect how they look. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 2:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ but not necessarily in the same way. In the OP's photo the clouds are shot almost in horizontal direction, through a thick layer of at least somewhat humid and dusty air. The angle of the second shot is hard to determine, but could be quite steeper, putting less of the ground layers in between. And the clouds do look a bit blurred, though I'd attribute this mostly to the wind. \$\endgroup\$
    – IMil
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IMil So why do you criticize this answer about the part that mentions the main thrust of several other answers, soas not to need to cover that ground in detail, yet do not criticize those answers? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 21:41

I'm sure haze is a problem here, but the landscape is also very dark. If you used a longer exposure so that the landscape is less dark, you should also see more details. If you do that, probably the sun and sky would be overexposed so you don't get the same sunset feel. To get around this you could take two pictures with different exposures and merge them.

Alternatively you could also change your composition, in the second picture the focus is clearly on the sky and the landscape is intended to be more of a silhouette. If you use half the picture for the landscape then the landscape needs to contain something other than black. But you could also just crop the landscape away, even now.

Cropped, roughly filtered image. For example here I cropped it so that the dark landscape is roughly the same height as the sky above the clouds, with the sun horizontally centered. And I played with the filters in my very basic mobile image editor a bit to darken the landscape more (it also affected the clouds so I had to compromise because I didn't want to darken those).


Beside all the other answers, I suspect that the coloration in the second foto is not "natural" in the sense that at least the white balance was set to something else than white daylight, and possibly also the red channel up slightly in post.

It is not impossible to see a sunset of this color in reality, but it is rare to have this red intensity across the whole sky. I suspect that if you want this color naturally, you have to go somewhere closer to the equator than where most of us live. Also, if you are using some kind of automatic white balance, it won't do well on sunset scenes - see how above the clouds, your sky looks greenish. I have never perceived such an effect when observing a sunset with my eyes - when I'm outside, it seems that the parts of the sky which aren't colored red are still a standard sky blue. This mixture of red-orange with blue that produces a greenish shade either doesn't exist, or gets filtered by my perception.

So play with the colors, and see if you won't enjoy it more.

I'm not sure if you are also asking about that part, but I would argue that the second picture also has a better composition. The larger sun is more visually impressive. It is not overshadowed by a massive cloud like in the first picture. And the sky in the second picture, while reddish everywhere, has a subtle texture of layered clouds - the first picture has a narrow horizontal band of texture at roughly sun height, but is quite flat above and below it. The underexposed mountains that got mentioned in another post also don't have visual variety. So there is much less to keep your attention. That's not to say that you can never have a photograph that is full of flat space, but these only work when done on purpose, and need some planning to pull off.


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