A Burst of Light

Sunset Sunburst
Moab, Utah

When photographing towards the sunrise or sunset, it's challenging to record the sun itself. One technique that works well is creating a starburst or sunburst effect. To do this requires a specific camera setting and good camera position.

To create the "rays," you need to close the aperture in the lens to a small opening. The easiest way to do this is switch your camera to Aperture Priority exposure mode and adjust to a large f-number, such as f/16 or f/22.

Then you need to "hide" part of the sun's disk behind something. Here I relied on the rocky horizon, but a tree trunk or branch can also work well. As the sun was setting, less and less was visible, so I had multiple opportunities for hiding more of the sun. (At sunrise, you have to be quick as more and more of the sun rises above the horizon.)

Last, the sun must be surrounded by dark areas for the rays to be visible. Here you can easily see the "points" below the horizon line and you can see a few against the clouds above the sun. If the area around the sun has no clouds or other dark areas, the rays disappear in the brightness.

Find out more creative techniques for impressive photos in Capturing Glorious Sunrises & Sunsets, beginning in person on September 9, 2021, in Missoula, Montana. You'll have two field shoots to practice your techniques. Click here to register.