Greig Houghton Photography
Landscape, Street and Travel Photography


Irish Landscape and Travel Photography Blog

Seven Nights, Seven Sunsets: Sabah, Malaysia, May 2012

All images © Greig Houghton 2012

Technically there are only six sunsets on this post with the first of the seven sunsets taking place at Hong Kong Airport as featured in my previous post about Hong Kong.  However as we had seven nights in total in Sabah, Malysian Borneo (the first night we arrived after sunset) I included it in the title of the post. The sunset in Hong Kong Airport was our first proper sunset on the trip and was a brief glimpse of what was to come...

Monday 30th April 2012

When a heavy rain shower rolled in a few hours before sunset I knew I could be in for something special but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.  We were staying in the Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort which is located on Dalit Bay approximately 30km north of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia which faces west over the South China Sea.

The passing rain shower left behind a trail of whispy and puffy clouds sitting clear of the horizon in the middle atmosphere leaving me itching with excitement for the sun to go down.  This was the reason I had dragged my large heavy tripod half way around the world.  Standing on the beach watching the sun go down will be something that will remain with me forever.  The best of the light arrive when the sun finally dropped below the horizon illuminating the clouds and sky above in a glorious fire of orange and red.  The price of the holiday justified in a heartbeat.

The panorama, the feature image at the top of the page. is a blend of 13 images which were shot in portait orientation and stitched together in PT GUI Pro.  This panorama was extremely difficult to blend together due to the movement of the sea and the different size and location of the waves.  I matched the waves the best I could in PT GUI using the masking tool in PT GUI to select the waves that closely matched each other.  It was then a case of using the clone tool in photoshop to finish blending the waves.

Tuesday 1st May 2012

With the shots from last night in the bag, it was difficult to see how the sunset was going to get any better.  However, it is not often that I get the chance to shoot the same place six nights running so I decided to use this as a challenge and try and get shots from different angles and compositions each night.  For Tuesday, I decided I wanted some more foreground interest in the shot which proved to be tricky because the beach was quite featureless with not many lead-in lines.  I eventually found a nice piece of drift wood and started working away.  I played around with my aperture setting to take various exposures between 1 and 30 seconds.  The sky had less big puffy clouds with more wispy type clouds but still provided plenty of drama and fire in the sky.

Wednesday 2nd May 2012

A different angle and a different sky.  This sky was dominated by lines of small puffy clouds with the twilight blue sky more dominant with patches of colour including one big glowing fire ball cloud. The sky in the shot is interesting but I would have liked more foreground interest or a leading line to finish the photo.

Thursday 3rd May 2012

A similar sky to the previous night, but with less clouds, but still retaining a great glow to the orange sections of sky.  The results turned out quite similar to Wednesday so I opted for something slightly different.  This shot was at 90 degrees to the sunset and I was attracted to the low puffy cloud sitting above the hotel with a subtle pink sky behind.  I used a very large piece of driftwood as a foreground interest but it is a bit in your face so don't think it works that well.


Friday 4th May 2012

The sunsets at this point were getting less spectacular per night compared by the standards set by the first three nights.  Nevertheless, this would be a sunset I would be happy with back home!  The resulting shots are a lot cooler than the previous days with more red than orange and is more contained to the horizon.  The sky was less interesting so opted to place the horizon on the top third and capture more of the sea and the beach.  The resulting image feels completely different to the other photos and is much more abstract or a minimalist seascape. The photos is a study of patterns, texture and colour.

Saturday 5th May 2012

The last sunset and the weather tried to ruin it the best it could.  A persistent light rain shower right at sunset blanketed the sky in cloud and robbed me of a lot of the colour.  However, I was determined to get something to finish the week and ended up with this shot of the setting sun framed by the silhouette of the wedding pavilion.  I used the path as a leading line hoping to catch some coloured reflections of the sun in the wet paving.  This was shot as a bracketed exposure thinking I might use some Tone Mapping or Exposure Fusion in Photomatix Pro but I wasn't happy with the final HDR result.  I ended up just using the single exposure with exposure recovery and some fill light in Lightroom.


That left one more stop to go on our tour of South East Asia - a very short afternoon and evening between flights in one of my favourite cities in Asia, Kuala Lumpur.