Saturday, November 21, 2009
Capturing the Sun
One of my more recent fascinations (or obsessions) is to capture the sun in a single exposure through proper use of camera settings and graduated neutral density filters.
There are several approaches to getting the sun in your shot. One way is to bracket your exposures and blend them together in an image editing program. This is almost like a manual HDR where you expose for different parts of the scene and use layer masks to paint in the best sections. I used to do this.
Since then, I have realized that getting the best sun burst requires using a very small aperture, in this case I used f22. Now, small apertures like f22 can cause a softening of the image by way of diffraction, a whole other topic, but in this case was worth it to get that sun burst in one shot.
It also requires using proper GND (graduated neutral density) filters. Since the brightest part of the scene I was capturing was right at the horizon, I employed the use of Singh Ray's reverse GND filter. It puts the darkest part of the filter at the middle, with clear below and a gradual darkening that gets less as it reaches the top of the filter. This helped control the sky right around the sun. I also used a soft stop GND filter by LEE. This puts the darkest part of the filter at the top and gradually gets lighter as it gets lower, ultimately going to clear. This helped keep the sky balanced with the rest of the scene.
Timing also comes into play. Waiting for the sun to make an appearance or capturing it on it's way out of the scene will reduce the harness of the light and make it easier to include in your photograph. Obscuring the sun with tree branches, a mountain range, a fence line or whatever you have around you will also make life much easier capturing the sun.