Tutorials

Sunstars

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The Sun isn’t the easiest thing to include in your landscape shots in a way that works well with the other elements of the scene. One way of doing so is to create sunstars, in which beams of light extend dramatically from the Sun. Professional landscape photographer Kevin Reid is fond of creating sunstars in his work. “Sunstars can add a very strong focal point and they can also add an entirely new dimension of interest to the image”, he says. “The loveliest ones, I find, are captured in the early hours of morning and near dusk. As light from the Sun has to travel further at either end of the day, it seems to work better when capturing sunstars. I have photographed them along coastlines, in mountains, general landscapes, forests, as well as many various city scenes. Historic churches, old barns, skyscrapers, and monuments and statues in city scenes are wonderful subject material.” When creating a sunstar, the aperture is key. “Your first step for great starbursts is to use a medium to small aperture”, says Kevin.“Often it means shooting at f18 or even narrower. You will often have to put up with some diffraction in your image to get a good sunstar. It always pays to experiment and shoot various aperture settings to see what works best. Make sure there is good contrast between the light and its background. Trying to get a starburst around the Sun if your sky is blown out is not going to work, as the white sky and the colour of the Sun do not have enough contrast.” The lens you are using also influences the appearance of sunstars, as the number of diaphragm blades it has controls how many points of light you’ll be able to create. “Become familiar with the number of blades in each lens you own,” says Kevin. “I find that the more streaks you have, the more dynamic the photo.” It’s important to compose your shots to create the maximum impact. “The best sunstars are often created when the Sun is partially blocked by something, such as when the Sun is half obscured by a tree or the corner of a building. A great way to capture a starburst is to anticipate the Sun’s trajectory (as it moves into or out of a subject), set up your tripod and then, when you see the Sun poke its head in or out of the object, you simply start firing!”

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