Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shooting the sun

click photo to enlarge
"Always take photographs with your back to the sun." That's the first piece of photographic advice I remember reading as a teenager. And useless advice it was too! Follow that rule when photographing people and you end up with an image of people squinting at the camera. Other subjects look floodlit, flat and boring. I soon learned that much better photographs result when you have the sun falling on your subject from the left or right giving shadows that model whatever it is that you are shooting. Later still in my photographic development I appreciated the value of getting the camera pointing quite close to the sun, and producing contre jour and silhouette effects.

In recent years, since the advent of digital photography, I've found myself deliberately including the sun in shots for the striking and slightly unpredictable effects that ensue. The sun in the image acts as a very strong compositional element, and can be a useful counterweight to a more tangible subject elsewhere in the frame, as here and here. I tried it again the other day as I walked through the Lincolnshire countryside below a cold sky filled with the graffiti of passenger jets. I tried a few different exposures, and settled on this one taken with a shutter speed of 1/4000 second, as the best of the bunch. It has quite a strong "starburst" around the sun, a couple of aberrations produced by light interacting with the glass, and an interesting mix of colours ranging from almost black at the top, through blues, whites and orange. It's not a shot that I can say I carefully organised before pressing the shutter, but its unpredicted qualities make for an image that I find quite pleasing.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/4000
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On