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Photographing Into the Sun

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2019 with Stephen Studd grand canyon sunrise

This can be tough to get right, but I’ve found that the latest camera sensors seem to be dealing with this difficult lighting situation really well. Experiment with your camera to see how it copes and create beautiful dreamy contemporary images.

I am using this technique in both my travel and garden photography and clients really love the feel it gives.

Here are a few tips for shooting into the sun.

KEEP YOUR LENS CLEAN

Dust, grease and scratches increase the risk of getting distracting flare. If you have a lens protecting filter on, take it off as sunlight can bounce in between the filter and the lens like in the shot below.

digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

Without the filter.

digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

USE MANUAL MODE 

Choose the ISO you want, shoot in RAW and manual focus. Choosing your own aperture and shutter speed gives you the desired control over the effect you are after. Underexposing the image by meter reading for the sun will give you a dark silhouette and what I call a 1970’s feel which is dated to say the least.

digital travel photography holidays vacations workshops courses photographic tours to  Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Burma, South East Asia and USA America hosted by Stephen Studd Photography

For the shot below I got my exposure reading by pointing the camera to the far right (away from the sun), once I’d set the meter reading in manual mode I pointed the camera into the sun and got the perfect exposure with detail in everything, the subject has a blown out highlight which is the bright sun giving a more contemporary feel.

digital travel photography holidays vacations workshops courses photographic tours to  Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Burma, South East Asia and USA America hosted by Stephen Studd Photography

The shot below same technique, meter reading away from the shaft of sunlight, then moved the camera position on a tripod and then the image taken into the light, leaving detail in the surrounding rock formation at Upper Antelope Canyon.

USA america american travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2019 with Stephen Studd

TRIPODS MAKE LIFE EASIER

When shooting backlight with the camera on a tripod, it’s easier to move the camera angle to control any distracting flare. The shot below is on a tripod, see lots of flare.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

ISO 100  f22 @ 1/8th sec

This type of flare I don’t like. Once the camera was on the tripod I shielded any bright sunlight getting into the lens by ‘flagging’ to block light and protecting the lens from flare. I use my Lee filters black filter pouch placed above the lens until flare disappears. This can take a few goes to get right. In the photo below the black Lee filters pouch is in the top of the frame. However you can already see the flare has been reduced with more contrast.

_MG_4405

ISO 100 f22 @ 1/8th sec  with 0.6 Grad soft ND

This is the shot I was after below. Fully flagged and no flare shooting straight into the sun. To hold more detail in the final image I used a 2 stop soft graduated ND filter.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

ISO 100 f22 @ 1/8th sec with 0.6 Grad soft ND

ND GRADUATED FILTERS 

These will help balance the exposure in your photograph. Remember to keep your filters clean.

As the sun was obscured behind a small cloud in the photograph below there was less chance of flare so I kept the ND grad on. Again I exposed for the far left of the frame, then pointed the camera into the sunrise light for a clean, fresh and modern sunrise feel.

USA america american landscape photography tour tours workshops holidays vacations with Stephen Studd Photography

0.6 Grad soft ND

HIDE THE SUN BEHIND AN OBJECT

Placing the sun behind an object gives you less chance of flare and can create a beautiful feel to your photograph. The shot below was taken for Paul Hervey-Brookes show garden for Viking Cruises at the RHS Hampton Court Palace flower show.

_MG_0387

The shot below taken again on Paul Hervey-Brookes garden at the Chelsea Flower Show .

Paul Hervey-Brookes Associates,  11 Lansdown, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 1BB, England, UK. landscape garden designer Viking Cruises Wellness garden gold medal RHS Chelsea Flower Show London UK 2018 photography by Stephen Studd photographer, Built by Gar

EXPERIMENT

One thing to take into consideration is that various camera models do act differently using this technique. Get to really know your camera model and what the sensor can deal with. Have fun and try out different apertures and lenses to see what effects they give. Once you’ve mastered the technique with a tripod you can use it in other styles of photography where a tripod can’t be used.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, Morocco Marrakech Marrakesh hosted by Stephen Studd

BLACK AND WHITE

The technique also works well when converting images to black and white. At the Grand Canyon the moody dramatic conditions immediately made me think I wanted a black and white image, the conditions were crying out for it. I shoot in colour in RAW, then convert to B&W later in Lightroom. You can see on the left side of the photograph the sun was shining through the clouds. I again used a 0.6ND soft graduated filter to hold detail in the stormy rain filled clouds.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

Do you use this technique in your photography? Hope you found the tips useful so you can put the technique to good use, I would love to see your results. Thanks for taking time to drop by the blog.

I have a blog post all about converting to B&W HERE


WARNING: Be really careful, don’t look into the sun for too long as it can damage your eyes. The main reason this technique works really well with a tripod is once the photograph is lined up you don’t need to keep looking through the viewfinder into the sun. With hand held shooting into the sun you can blind yourself.


My photography tours in Cambodia, Vietnam, Marrakech the USA and the Gower, can be found here: http://www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

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‘May the light be with you’

Stephen Studd Photography: www.stephenstuddphotography.com



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Easy steps to photograp into the sun

My camera is always set on manual mode, if your camera is on auto and you photograph into the sun you will most likely get underexposed images.

When shooting into the sun your meter will underexpose the scene (the histogram will be way too far to the left). Photographing into the sun is a great way for you to learn to take control of your camera.

If you are after a warm glow around the sun then photographing at sunrise or sunset are the best times to achieve this.

Digital photography holidays Myanmar, Bagan,  temple at dawn, silhouette

Myanmar, Bagan, silhouetted temples at sunrise

Set the aperture you are after and meter for the scene without the sun in the frame as a starting point. Keep this meter reading then shoot with the sun in the shot and see how this looks.

For the shot above of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar I wanted to leave some detail in the silhouetted temples whilst giving a very warm feel to the image. You can try different exposures using the exposure compensation dial to see how the different exposures will look. The camera was mounted on my tripod and I focussed the scene manually, then avoided looking directly through the eyepiece to save my eyes from any damage. Between shots I put the lens cap on too.  To avoid flare it is best to remove any lens protection filters you might have on your lens.

If you are after a bright burnt out sun with blue sky then shooting around mid day can ahieve this, though this one is much harder on the eyes, so be careful. The shot below of the Allium Purple Sensation against the sun I wanted to convey the feeling of nature bursting into life with the power of the sun in summer. For this the sun had to be overhead with me lying on the ground. This shot was harder to achieve as I was hand holding and having to focus on the allium and meter.

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun
f11 1/400th sec @70mm 100 ISO

The backlit flower against the sun shows off its shape and form and the colour of the petals is accentuated. In this shot the sun is more burnt out and there is flare which adds to the feel of the power of the beating sun.

When taking these type of shots please be careful of your eyes, you don`t want to damage them.

I am leading travel photography holidays and tours in 2016 and 2017 to Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam and Cambodia. Details can be found on the Digital Photography Holidays website; http://www.digitalphotographyholidays.com