Starbright Sun Effect
By Scott Kelby
Excerpt from The Digital Photography Book, part 5
BEHIND THE SCENES: Shooting landscape shots where you see the sun in the image is getting more and more popular, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing in the shot above: me aiming at those huge rock-like boulder thingies (that’s their official technical name) with the sun clearly in the shot.
CAMERA SETTINGS: For the final image (below), I’m using a 16–35mm lens at 16mm, so I’m as wide out as it will go. I’m at f/22, which is a particularly popular f-stop for landscape photography, but we’re using it for a different reason here (more on that in a minute). Although I’m hand-holding here, in most cases when shooting landscape images, I’d be on a tripod because I’d normally be shooting in lower light (around dawn or sunset). Since the sun was still bright in the sky, I figured I could hand-hold this one and get away with it, but at 100 ISO and at f/22. Without raising my ISO, I was only at 1/60 of a second, so that was as slow a shutter speed as I could actually get away with and still get a steady shot. About five minutes later, it probably would have been too late and my shutter speed would have fallen to 1/30 and my shot probably would have been a little soft.
THOUGHT PROCESS: If I was on the edge of having too slow a shutter speed, why didn’t I just lower my f-stop, which would have raised my shutter speed? It’s because f/22 is a magic number when it comes to creating those starbright beams of light coming off the sun (you still get them to some extent at f/18, but not like you do at f/22). Take a look at the sun in the behind-the-scenes shot at the top. That’s how the sun would normally appear in photos where it’s right there in the shot. That was taken at f/8 and the sun’s beams really have no definition—it’s just a big, fuzzy ball of light. Now look at the 14 well-defined starbrights (one common name for them) coming off the sun in this photo above (the fact that you can count 14 starbrights just shows how well defined they are). Of course, you can buy screw-on filters that will help with this effect, but if all you have to do is dial in f/22 before you take the shot, why not try that instead?
POST-PROCESSING: The rocks are backlit, so in Lightroom’s Develop module (or Camera Raw), I dragged the Shadows slider to the right to bring out details in those rocks. I also lowered the Highlights amount quite a bit (to –68) to help lower the brightness of the sun and make those starbrights stand out even more. I increased the Clarity amount to bring out more texture in the rocks, and lastly, I dragged the Vibrance slider to the right quite a bit (to +73) to make the sky richer and more blue. The Starbright Sun Effect