Monday, October 18, 2010

Achieving the sunburst effect with digital camera

When I started with photography I used to wonder how photographers achieved the sunburst effect (also referred at many places as star burst effect). Off late I have been reading few articles for the techniques required to create such effect. The basic requirement for creating such effect would be a digital camera that allows you to have control over the aperture setting (also called f-stop). The theory says that when the lens is stopped down to a very small f-stop i.e larger f value like f/22, f/32 etc... a phenomenon called diffraction comes into picture. The reason for this is that the edges of the diaphragm blades in the lens tend to disperse the light. At larger apertures (f/5.6, f/8) this diffracted light is only a small percentage of the total amount of light hitting the sensor or film, but as the aperture is stopped down the amount of diffracted light becomes a larger percentage of the total amount of light being recorded. From photographic point of view the diffraction causes loss of sharpness, but can also be used for creative purpose like creating sun bursts.

Having equipped myself with the theoretical knowledge, it was now time to implement it practically. These days I am unable to take time to visit photographic locations so tried all the shots around my house.

Specifically for sun bursts I typically use a f-stop like f/22 and a wide angle lens. The wider the lens more easier it is to get the effect. I have never tried to create sun bursts with a longer focal length as I am afraid of damaging my camera sensor and my eye :)

Here are few shots that came out my experimentation.

Lens: Nikkor 18-55mm@18mm, f/22, 1/100sec, Manual, Handheld
Lens: Nikkor 18-55mm@18mm, f/22, 1/200sec, Manual,Tripod. Manually blended 2 exposure in CS5
18-55mm@18mm f/22, 1/20sec, Manual, Took 2 exposures and manually blended them in CS5
18-55mm@18mm f/22, 1/13sec, Manual, Tripod. Manually blended 2 exposures in CS5
18-55mm@18mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec

As you might have noticed from the exif info that all the shots were taken at a focal length of 18mm and most of the time at f/22. In my opinion the best shooting times for sun burst on a sunny day are in the morning and the evening due to less intense light, warmer tones, and longer shadows.

Also positioning the sun slightly behind another object such as a tree branch, a mountain peak, a building or a cloud and partially hiding the sun may enhance the details of your sunburst.

Many times you may want to take multiple exposures of a shot if you want to preserve both the highlights and the dark areas. Since the light source is directly included in the frame there is good amount of chance that the entire range of the light is too high to be recorded on camera sensor.

I feel that this creative effect really adds a strong compositional element to a frame and if used creatively can produce wonderful images.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Buggy morning at Hebbal lake

10th Oct, 2010

Hebbal lake was one place which I wanted to visit since long time, but never took time off to go there. This weekend I decided to set off to Hebbal lake with expectations of getting some good shots. While surfing the net I saw many good early morning sunrise shots taken at Hebbal lake and I too was eager to get some good sunrise shots. Once shot that I specifically had in mind was the lake being lit the golden color morning light with a silhouette of pelicans or ducks against the golden colored water.

I left for the lake early enough so that I do not miss the sunrise, though was bit disappointed to see the sky as there were plenty of clouds and I was getting doubtful that there won't be a spectacular sunrise. I reached the lake at 6 AM and as I had expected the cloudy sky did not leave any chance of a beautiful sunrise, infact the sunrise was not at all dramatic. I took couple of shots but none to my liking. Posting one below.

Early morning
The light and sky was dismissal for any kind of landscape shots. I did take few shots but none to my liking. Here are few of them

I did not waste much time taking them and mounted my Sigma 150mm macro lens as there were lots of bugs, spiders and butterflies around. There were few water birds around but I did not have any lens with a longer focal length so there was no point in shooting them.

I spent next couple of hours looking for and shooting various insects around.

As the sun came up I also saw few butterflies around. So captured them too.

Common bush brown
Common Castor
Lemon Pancy
Common Grass Yellow
Not sure about ID of this butterfly
Well this was it. It was almost 9 AM by now and the park was almost empty. All the shutterbugs, early morning walkers had left the park and I also called it a day. I had come to shoot sunrise but went on to shoot bugs. A sunrise shoot still remaining on the list and so does Hebbal lake.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trip to Nandi Hills

26th Sept, 2010

Nandi hills was always on my list of places to visit during weekends, however the plans never materialized as one or the other friend would drop out of the trip. This time however, the plan was finalized and we decided to go to Nandi hills on 25th (Saturday) morning. There were 3 of us who were supposed to go. Unfortunately, it rained heavily previous night and we had to drop the plan as it would be too risky to drive two wheelers on wet highway roads. The rains however turned out to be a boon as 4 more friends were ready to join the trip which we had postponed by a day i.e. 26th (Sunday).

We planned to meet up at 4.45AM and leave for hills at 5 AM. I was pretty sure that we will not leave at the decided time, as there were 7 of us and getting all to meet at one time and that too so early in the morning would always be difficult. To my surprise everyone was there at the decided time and we did leave sharp at 5 AM. The idea was to reach on top of the hill just before sunrise (at around 6 AM) so that we can witness the beauty of the morning from the hills. I had some shots in mind and was hoping to get them today. I was carrying my tripod as I knew that early morning shots will require slower shutter speed and keeping the camera still will be difficult without a tripod.

It was around 6.15AM and we still had around 20 minutes before we reached on top of the hills and this was the magic period when the light was really very good for taking photographs. I knew we will not make it in time on top, so asked my friend to stop the bike on the road side and we took few shots of magnificent morning sky. We had to hurry a bit as we had to catch up with others. Though the shots were good but because they were taken in hurry couple of them got blurred because of camera shake.

Bike we were travelling on (6.15 AM)

Taken on the way to nandi hills (6.15 AM)
The sun was rising quickly and in around next 10 minutes that beautiful morning light was diminishing. We had reached at the foot of Nandi hills and now we were travelling over the typical curvy roads on hills. We stopped in between to take couple of more shots.

On the way to hills (6.25 AM)

On the way to hills (6.25 AM)
We reached on the top of hills in next 10 minutes and seeing the scene there all my excitement drained out, as I saw that huge crowd had assembled there and there was a long queue to buy the tickets for entry to the view points. Couple of friends who had reached before us were already in the queue to get the tickets. I utilized this time in shoot couple of long shots of the distant mountains.

View of distant mountains (6.42 AM)

Taken at 6.42 AM
I really missed my long lens 55-200mm which I recently sold. I could imagine a shot of the mountains taken at 200mm where the layers of the mountain ranges could be isolated.

By this time the tickets were bought and we walked to top of the hill. I took few shots, though the early morning over layer of clouds shot that I had thought of was no were to be seen. Here are some of the shots taken here and there.

Temple on top of the hill

Another view of the hills around
Another view of the hills around
At around 8.15 AM we decided to head back to the parking area.

Taken when going back to parking area (8.17 AM)
 The walk back was also a good experience. There are plenty of trees around and the slanting rays of sun pierced through the trees and created a nice scene.

Sun rays passing thru trees   (8.30 AM)
Sun burst!!! (8.30 AM)
My friend Shilesh. I liked the aged effect of this shot so posted this

Once we got down the hill we parked our bikes to take one group photo.

I am missing here as I  took this shot.
On the way back, we saw couple of flower fields and clicked few shots there, but it did not come out well so not posting here. I also took couple of shots of another friend when he was riding his bike.

On the way back (9.59 AM)
Over all the trip was pretty enjoyable. Though I did not get the shots that I had thought of, I still got few shots that I can keep. Now I also know what to expect there, so hopefully the next trip should be more productive.

Finally ending with another group photo and this time I am in the frame too :)

Group photo

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