Taking pictures into the sun

What you see is what you get, including photography, displays, and video equipment.

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Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:32 pm

We all know it's bad to look into the sun for more than a split second, but when I see photos of something that includes the sun, I wonder how the photographer took it without going blind. Doesn't the optics of a camera concentrate a wide beam of sunlight into a very small area of the eye? At least with a P&S you can look at the LCD, and Live View on an SLR lets you do that, but that just kills the sensor.

How do photographers photograph into the sun and stay safe?
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:46 pm

You can use a neutral density filter, especially a gradient, which lets you darken the sky more than the ground.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:56 pm

Usually it's a sunset shot, and there's a lot more atmosphere involved which cuts down the intensity. (It would be bad to shoot up at the sun at noon, but why would you?) I've shot a bunch of sunsets, and it's never been a problem (or anything I've really worried about, to be honest). Just don't look directly at it. The really tricky bit is to get the fill flash right if you're trying to shoot a sunset with something in the foreground you don't want to be a pure silhouette.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:59 pm

If it's a picture OF the sun that you want, there are special, "center-spot" filters -- a very dark circle in the center and clear around it -- that mimic the effect of an eclipse. If you are talking about the sun being an incidental part of the picture -- as in a sunset -- exposure is usually short enough that it isn't really a problem. Just don't spend an inordinate amount of time looking through an optical viewfinder where the sun is in your eye -- it CAN burn your retina. When the sun (or any bright, essentially point-light source) in within the frame of your image, you are very likely to get flare (wiki) as part of the resultant picture. The situation exacerbates ghosting (secondary reflections of the primary image off glass surfaces within the lens), too. Some lenses are less prone than others, but it's a problem for all of them. Lastly, don't leave a lens / camera pointed at the sun -- it can cause major damage.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:13 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:You can use a neutral density filter, especially a gradient, which lets you darken the sky more than the ground.


Fader is your friend - an adjustable ND filter with 2-8 stops light cutoff. I gotta get me one of these... Course, it's not a graduated filter, but you can always take multiple exposures and combine them in photoshop.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:48 am

At the end of his life, Ansel Adams' sight was failing and he believed all those years of looking into the sun through his camera ultimately led to his vision loss.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:17 am

You can use the dof preview to stop the lens down while composing, if you have one.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:55 pm

I have such a shot in the the General Photography thread, and note that I did get a very undesirable green spot as part of the lens flare.

In terms of eye risk, I was using full auto mode and only had to view the image sufficient to compose the shot, not to focus or make dozens of manual adjustments. Also, for whatever it's worth, I had a UV filter installed on that lens. I don't know how much light energy that actually blocks relative to the risk of eye damage, though. I should think the lens system would tend to eat a lot of light in that range anyway by simple absorption.
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Re: Taking pictures into the sun

Postposted on Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:09 pm

Even without the high energy UV entirely, there is such a significant amount of visible light that damage can be estimated to begin in a matter of seconds.
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