Versova Beach is by far the most interesting beach photographically in Mumbai, especially at sunset.
There's no better beach in Mumbai to shoot sunset photography. For those who are willing to take advantage of Golden Hour light, and even an hour or so proceeding it when the sun is lower in the sky, Versova Beach is the place to be.
I photograph Versova Beach almost exclusively in Manual Mode on my camera. The reasoning is simple and based on the fact that the light is predictable leading up to sunset, and once you have the main settings dialed in, only minor tweaks are necessary as the sun begins to fall in the sky resulting in less light.
Photographing silhouettes facing the sun and sea
Silhouettes are on the extreme side of the spectrum, where you're attempting to capture forms rather than a lot of detail. You'll want to be in Manual Mode on your camera and with your ISO set to 100.
The next consideration is your aperture. Are you attempting to blur out the background completely in order to create a lot of subject-background separation? Or are you trying to capture sand, subject, water, and sky, all relatively in focus? Generally, this will depend on how high of a shutter speed your camera is capable of too.
For instance, if you're opening up your aperture to as far as your lens allows, say to f1.8, then your resulting shutter speed is going to be very high in order to keep your image from being over-exposed, something like 1/6000 or 1/8000 of a second. Sometimes, subject isolation won't be an issue and you can stop down your aperture to f8 and focus on transforming your subjects into silhouettes with more reasonable shutter speeds. The above image of the branches and crows was shot at 1/500 of a second at f8 and ISO 100.
Capturing details facing the sun and sea
There are exceptions to the ISO 100 guideline when it comes to facing the sun. For instance, if you're trying to capture details and your subject is moving quickly, it may be best to up your ISO higher to allow for faster shutter speeds and for more depth of field.
The settings for the above image were shutter speed 1/000 of a second at f8, ISO 640. And this brings up an important point: if you're out to capture details, it may be best to avoid facing the sun directly and setting your ISO to AUTO in order to capture the best exposure. In this case, you'll set your shutter speed based on the movement of your subject and the aperture to your desired subject-to-background effect.
Turning your back to the sun and sea
The wonderful thing about Versova Beach is that there are plenty of subjects to photograph in and near the water and further inland. So if you're not after silhouettes or general sunset shots, turning to face where the sun is falling is going to give you a beautiful Golden Hour look, richly saturated and full of details.
Manual Mode once again is going to be the go-to mode, although one could get by on Aperture Priority depending on your subject and what effects you want to achieve.
With the sun to my back, I captured the above image in Manual mode at shutter speed 1/640 of a second, f1.8, ISO 100. I was going for a blurry foreground and background and focusing on the horse and carriage. If you're at a farther distance, it's going to appear as though you've used a more moderate aperture setting. Again, it all depends on what you're trying to achieve. I could have easily captured this same image at f8 using roughly the same shutter speed while raising the ISO. The reflections in the foreground would have still appeared somewhat blurry due to the water and everything else would appear slightly more in focus, although I doubt whether anyone could really tell any significant difference with my main subject being this far away as I was shooting at 85mm.
If you peruse my blog, you're going to find many pictures that I've taken at Versova Beach, at both sunrise and sunset, and anytime between. One reason for my continued trips is that it's simply convenient. I can reach Versova in 20 minutes or less on any given day, depending on traffic.
But the most important reason is that Versova Beach is undeniably the most interesting beach in Mumbai. During sunset hours, locals flood the beach to relax and catch some sun and cooler temperatures. Vendors and horse rides emerge from the late afternoon hours to make a little money off the crowds. And with construction projects currently underway, the beach is an ever-changing landscape of boulders and heavy equipment.
Then there is the Koli population and residents from the slum who hold residence in the sand. There are always children at play. Multiple cricket games are a common scene. And if you journey to the most-northern part of the beach (sometimes the beach is cut off by the tides) you'll encounter many of the larger fishing boats and the local fish market close to the Madh Island ferry. In this area you'll be able to capture completely different scenes of fishermen at work and all the support activities. All of which is only captured before sunset.
Best time to arrive, where to start
Arrive two hours prior to official sunset in Mumbai. The slighting won't be ideal when you arrive but you'll still be able to get a lot of shots while having time to scout for the best locations.
The best all-around place to start is going to be from the main access at Bungalow Rd. near WTF. The reason is that often the other beach access points could be restricted or not accessible at all due to high tide. There will always be access to this beach from Bungalow Rd., even during monsoon season when much of the beach is inundated.