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  • Shooting into the sun

    Ive been exerimenting with shooting into the sun a fair bit lately - both with, and without strobes - and while the results can be really hit and miss, I'm really liking the results for their sense of atmosphere, dynamic lighting and natural contrast.

    The shot above was taken on an amazing, still evening in the area called Riverside, in Rocklands, South Africa. We got there just as the sun as setting and I had about 5 minutes to setup my flash - a Canon Ex-600RT with PixelKing triggers - and get the composition and exposure sorted.  The climber - Sheffield based James Garden - jumped on for a quick warm-up before finishing the route second try where I got this shot on the final throw.

    A few things ive learned with this technique:

    • My flash + 1/200th max sync speed isnt enough to balance out the mid-day sun, so evening sessions are the only time this works.
    • Exposure - Avoiding completely blown-out sections is difficult/impossible, and im not sure it matters anyway. However, im constantly amazed how much detail I can drag back out of underexposed areas on the 5d2 RAW images, so I tend to underexpose shots a few stops more more than usual to minimise the white-out.
    • Going for dynamic compositions and creating silhouettes is key - all the shots previous to this one had the climber against the rock, with him leaping into full silhouette here.
    • The sun is almost always going to be the visual focus of the shot, so position it accordingly...
    • Temporarily removing your UV or polariser filter seems to help reduce flare (even my best Hoya Pro1 filters seem to add some flare)
    • Upping your aperture will make a nicer sunstar, BUT dim your flash effectiveness... seems to be a compromise.

    Thats about it... Take lots of shots and enjoy the best part of the day!