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Old Sep 4, 2012, 3:30 AM   #1
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Default Taking pictures of direct sunlight.

Hi everyone,

I'm an amature so I hope you can help.

Yesterday was brilliant sunlight here in Essex and I thought it would be perfect conditions for me to grab my camera as soon as I got hom and start taking some snaps.

I ran over to a field near my town and there were hay stacks laid here and there casting shadows on the ground. I climbed to the top of a hill side and aimed my wide angle lens across the field with the sun positioned in the top right hand corner of the shot and clicked.

No matter what settings I used the sun wouldn't show up in the picture. When I looked through the view finder I could see the exact photo that I wanted but it just wouldn't show on the picture. Neither would the clouds.

I must have spent an hour messing with the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I changed lenses from wide angle, to zoom, to kit.

I've taken a photo of the sun set before but for some reason my camera wouldn't pick up the sun in this case and instead the whole sky was a bright blueish white.

Can someone please help me because I may have another chance to take the shot tonight.


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Old Sep 4, 2012, 4:15 AM   #2
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Shooting into the sun in bright sunlight is nigh on impossible in a single exposure.
The camera has to decide whether to expose for the sun/sky- which would require a small aperture and a very fast shutter speed- or the scenery/foreground which would require much less a shutter speed due to being far less bright- so the camera basically has to make a choice or a compromise of both- which is about as much use as a chocolate fire-guard.
The range of lighting is just too much for the sensor/processor to handle.
There are two ways around this- shoot the scene with a variety of exposures, with each one exposing a specific area of the scene and combine them using appropriate software (HDR imaging) or use a strong Graduated Neutral Density filter with the filtering part in the top half of the scene,filtering out a great deal of the bright sunlight but leaving the foreground as normal,giving you the chance of a balanced exposure.
ND grads are great- but are limited to scenes which are symmetrically balanced- in landscapes with a flat-ish horizon or similar seascapes- in scenes with tall mountains or trees/buildings ND grads' are not much use- and strong contrasty lighting has to be dealt with using multiple exposures.
Many camera's these days have on board Dynamic range enhancers- using a variety of names dependant on the manufacturer- Canon have iContrast, Nikon have D-lighting and so on- and can be quite effective in contrasty scenes, but even these have their limitations- such as the scene you describe. Many manufacturers have HDR systems built in also these days- Sony being pretty effective in this department- but controlling exposures individually- and manually- is far more effective for HDR shots,even if it does require some patience and time- and a tripod..!

ND grad explained...

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Old Sep 4, 2012, 4:58 AM   #3
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Keep in mind that trying to take a photo of the Sun can damage your image sensor.
  • The lens is the thing.
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Old Sep 4, 2012, 4:26 PM   #4
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It sounds to me as if the camera is averaging the exposure so the entire sky area is overexposed. Try metering on the sky itself, using center weighted or spot metering, then lock that exposure using the AE lock. Re-frame the shot, and use exposure bracketing with as large a setting as you can for the steps. You should end up with some of the shots with the land too dark, and some with the sky too bright. These can be combined for a HDR image which contains both ends as well as the mid-range.

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