sunset photographs?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by ric|1, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. Hi,
    I have a Canon D300. In the past I have taken photographs of the setting sun, which has captured the low sun as an orange ball, I guess that must be atmospheric conditions. But recently I tried the same experiment and all I get is an area of glare where the sun is, you cannot pick out the sun from the glare. Again, I think this must be atmospheric, the air being clearer this time round, so the sun being brighter?
    But how do I cope with the added brightness, stop down manually to the smallest aperture then use a ND filter? It's the outline of the sun I want more than the sunset + clouds.
    Btw, I only ever look indirectly at the sun NEVER full on and I don't advise anyone to look at the sun through a camera or anything else - this is purely a personal experiment.
    Many thanks,
  2. You have several options:
    • If it works for your subject, simply stop down a lot and let the rest of the scene go very dark. Usually this is not your best option, but it can work in some cases.
    • Try the graduated neutral density approach, though this isn't without its issues either. You'll need (or at least went) a simple, straight horizon and a relatively strong grad ND since the sun is quite a bit brighter than your foreground.
    • Try exposure blending. With the camera on a tripod make a series of exposures separated by a stop or more (varied by changing shutter speed rather than aperture) and combine them in post using layers in Photoshop.
    • Try an HDR approach, which is - roughly speaking - more or less a way of automating something like the process described in the previous bullet.
    The situation with this sort of shot is different with digital than it was with film. To a certain extent, film's response to very bright subjects sort of "rolled off" rather than hitting a hard stop. Digital, on the other hand, does not handle over-exposure so gracefully - once the channels are saturated, all detail is lost and you end up with this "glare" area that you describe.
  3. I agree with Dan. I've tried his various approaches. I personally expose for the sun (variety of stopping things down, manual exposures, etc). I let the rest of the scene go dark, I prefer the semi-silhouette results
  4. But how do I cope with the added brightness,​
    You can't. If the dynamic range of the scene exceeds that of the camera there's nothing you can do about it (at least not with a single exposure). Stopping down won't help, ND filters won't help. Graduated ND filters might be useable, but not for just diming the sun and nothing else.

    You could take multiple exposures and blend them of course.
  5. Thanks Tudor & Dan,
    That gives me something to work towards. The D300 has an excellent array of manual settings, trouble with digital cameras is they can make you a bit lazy, being fully automated & so forth - am looking forward to putting the D300 through it's manual toolbox of tricks again :)
  6. Thanks Bob,
    What's the difference between ND filters and graduated ND filters please?
  7. Graduated ND filters simply darken a portion of the horizon. Normally used to darken an over exposed sky, but leave the foreground lighter.
    If you go that route, you might want to look at the Cokin fFilter system. It allows for a lot more flexibility when it comes to graduated ND filters
  8. Okay thanks - gotcha,
    Either this or just wait for optimal atmospheric conditions again, more of whatever it was in the atmosphere which allowed me to capture the sun in the first place?
  9. Well, perhaps you inadvertently underexposed your first shot, so experiment with a variety of exposures next time. If you can see the sun then the atmospheric conditions only have marginal effects on exposure.
    I found that graduated ND filters robbed too much resolution. If you have access to Photoshop the Adobe Camera RAW converter (from CS4 forward, I believe) has an awesome graduated ND filter. You determine where to place it, the strength, and the area it covers, and you can place as many as you need in the image. You do have to be careful with the strength to avoid noise coming out of the deeply underexposed areas.
    I generally don't like HDR but have found PS HDR to be useful on rare occasions and it has a more understated affect than some programs like Photomatix.
    To make the deeply underexposed images I think you are referring to with the sun as a ball of orange you need an interesting horizon shape since it will be pure black or an interesting sky of clouds. I find this to be so rare that I don't often shoot directly into the sun focusing instead on the effects the sun is having on the landscape and/or clouds.
    When I do put the sun in the image I will often expose more for the foreground and hence overexposing the sun and losing the ball effect. However, I shoot at f22 to f32, in order to create the "star" look. I have provided a sample below. I used a system of ND filters in PS CS4 ACR to balance the exposure as best as I could.
  10. I would agree that exposure blending, or HDR, properly done (not 'overcooked'), may be your best option.
  11. Thanks. I had a lucky hit two years ago, photographed the sun setting with the 300D on auto. When the sensors picked up the foreground the sky was 'white out'; when the sensors picked up on the sky the foreground went black-brown and the sunset was perfectly exposed, no glare, not even lens flare.
    Two days ago the sun setting was so bright it scorched out any detail of the sun's form, only the glare remained. I can only deduce from this that moisture or pollution in the atmosphere behaves as a natural filter, especially when the sun is low and the angle of vision takes the eye through a deep, oblique section of atmosphere. When the atmosphere is clear then the sun appears so much brighter and the camera can't handle it.
    Analogous is probably the red sun effect when it is low on the horizon - and the 'pink moon' which I have never seen but heard about.
    I will experiment with settings and ND filters but I think I am just waiting for the right conditions again: I was lucky two years ago it seems.
  12. When exposing the sun, you really need to set your aperture and shutter manually. Contrast of that magnitude will very reliably screw up any attempt at metering.
    Be cautious about pointing your camera into the sun. I would only do it with an ND filter on the lens. You risk damaging your sensor if you use liveview (so don't), and you risk burning the various black parts where your mirror hinges if the sun appears right at the bottom of the frame. As long as you keep the sun away from the very edges of the frame, you'll probably be fine -- nothing to burn.
    Oh, and never ever take a picture into the sun with a non-SLR camera with a focal plane shutter or electronic shutter (e.g. compact digital)! Never ever!
  13. Thanks.
    Here you go - auto exposed on tripod - orange sun.
    No glare, no burn out, no flare, no filters - how did I do it? I wish I knew!
  14. auto exposed on tripod.... how did I do it? I wish I knew!​
    And you never will know with your camera on auto exposure. Exposure will always be a mystery until you take control of your camera.
  15. Sterling advice - many kind thanks.
  16. As Bob says, if it is too bright there is nothing you can do about it. You have to wait until atmospheric conditions are right and the sun's intensity is lower - depending on the evening/morning this may not happen on your particular day. There is no problem taking shots of sunsets (or the sun) with a rangefinder camera. Just take care to cap the lens if you intend to leave it pointing at the sun for any time and remove the lens cap before taking the shot. Certainly you need to bracket the exposures a good deal to get a sunset to your taste.
  17. Thanks yes, I just need to be patient - and I can also invoke the full range of manual controls in respect of shutter speed and aperture settings which are to be found on the EOS 300D for good measure :)

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