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.


  1. I've been trying this lately. f/22 doesn't give me a tight sunstar. Maybe it has something to do with the number of aperture blades. I get an 8 pointed star.

    Love the shot. Do you blend in a shot taken w/o filters to get the detail in the stack?

  2. Lukas, not on this shot. There seemed to be enough light to get some detail on the stack. And thanks Chapa.

  3. This is really awesome Jim. I love the idea of capturing so much range in a single shot with filters. Fascinating. All I can say!

  4. Seems like a silly question I'm sure but what lens do you use for your landscape. (I'm hoping santa actually reads my list this year! haha)

  5. Birston, sorry for the late reply, I am finally figuring out how to track comments on my blog. I use a 12-24mm lens for most of my wide angle work. I also use a 35-70mm for my mid-range, but it is a temporary lens until I get something like the newer 24-70mm. I also have a 70-200mm that gets used occasionally.