Give Sunrise the Finger

Shot #04

It’s not uncommon for me to get up at ‘silly o-clock’ and make my way to hopefully capture the first direct rays of light as it creeps over the horizon. Subsequently, I’m quite often asked how I control flare when shooting directly into the sun. I usually respond by showing them the finger.

This answer is not as rude or as offensive as it might seem, I basically mean by using some of the tools that we were born with, namely fingers/thumbs, placed strategically in the right place at the point of capture can make all the difference.

Exceptionally clear optics and filters is an absolute must for shooting into the sun, but in my experience even this will not guarantee that some stray light bouncing around your optics will not spoil your shot – it’s inevitable. Shooting with the sun in your shot can be a pain to say the least, but this can be minimised with a little forward planning.

Let me try to explain how I go about minimising this problem with this sequence of shots:

Shot #01Shot #01: The first and second shots are straight from the camera. Whilst on an initial glance the flare in the first shot doesn’t seem to be too intrusive, when you look more closely you can see the obvious flaring in the clear sky. On closer inspection you can also see there is some pinkish fringing in the bottom left corner, where the light has been reflected within the lens mechanism.


Shot #02: is a second shot using exactly the same exposure settings as ‘Shot #01’, but with obvious addition of and intruding digit to cover the sun’s location. This has the effect of minimising the stray flare within the main body of the shot.

You will probably notice that the pinkish fringing from ‘Shot #01’ is no longer apparent, this is due to the fact that there is not harsh direct light source to bounce around the inside of my lens.

Overlaying ‘Shot #01’ with ‘Shot #02’ in your chosen image software [mine is Adobe PhotoShop] and then turning the top layer on and off will help to show up any irregularities. Obviously we need to look at removing my hand from the final image. I’m not going into how to blend the shots here as this will lengthen this article unnecessarily … and there are many ways to skin that particular cat.

Shot #03Shot #03: I have combined the 2 shots together and carefully blended out my hand from the composite images. This has served to remove most of the flaring within the shot but there is still a small amount left in the sky. Using the clone and heal tools in PhotoShop quickly removes this.

Shot #04Shot #04: This could now be the final image, but I have a couple of other small tweaks that need to be done first before I am happy to call it complete. These are predominantly sharpening routines that I always carry out on my finished images, but there are also some small curves adjustments needed to maximise the shot contrast and impact.

The adjustments made at this point are minor as I prefer to try to get the shot as correct as possible when I process the RAW file before outputting to PhotoShop.

Shot #05: This is now the complete image after all curve adjustment as sharpening techniques have been applied. It’s now ready to be output as a nice 12″ x 18″ Lustre print.

Shot #05

I hope you have found this article to be of use, I hope it serves you well on your early morning outing – and late evening ones too for that matter. Happy shooting.

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