When I look at photos of sunrise respectively sunset and do not know the cardinal direction I'm not able to identify if this photo was taken on sunrise or sunset. So I ask myself the question is there a way to determine? Maybe color temperature of sky, color of the sun or something like this (consider photo no color shifts by post processing).
It is indeed difficult, if not impossible, to tell at times. Here's a list a strategies I might use to tell the difference:
- Look for contextual clues. Even a tiny recognizable feature could reveal the cardinal direction.
- Atmospheric clarity. During a sunrise, the dust has had time to settle at night, making the sky clearer than at sunset, where there is a lot of particulate matter. You might be able to find minute differences in this and, combined with other factors, make a determination.
- Tilt of the Earth. This requires that you have at least two photos from the same sequence but with enough time in between that the sun has had a chance to move significantly. In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises up and toward the right, while it sets down and toward the right (which is the opposite since if you interpreted this as a sunrise, the sun would appear to rise up and toward the left). The reverse is true for the southern hemisphere. This requires knowing which hemisphere you're in, and ideally far away from the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
AFAIK, if there is a body of water in the picture, it would be more still during sunrise than sunset because the cooler temperatures of the night results in less wind.
From Scott Kelby's, The Digital Photography Book (the first)
Another advantage of shooting at dawn (rather than at sunset) is that water (in ponds, lakes, bays, etc.) is more still at dawn because there’s usually less wind in the morning than in the late afternoon. So, if you’re looking for that glassy mirror-like reflection in the lake, you’ve got a much better shot at getting that effect at dawn than you do at dusk.