Quick Tip: How to Shoot a Starburst

You don’t need a filter for this special effect.

march11quicktip

march11quicktip

Kevin McNeal

Kevin McNeal shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 17– 40mm f/4L Canon EF lens. Exposure: 1/50 sec at f/22, ISO 500.

Want to transform a light source in a photo into a many-rayed starburst? You could buy an accessory starburst filter and thread it onto your lens. But save yourself some cash and try this: Shoot at your smallest aperture. It worked for Kevin McNeal, a landscape specialist based in Oregon, for his photo of northwestern wildflowers above.

The difficulty with this trick is controlling flare. “I tried to reduce the amount of light striking my lens from the setting sun,” says McNeal. “First I positioned my camera so that one of the avalanche lilies partially blocked the sun, and because the positioning had to be exact, I used a tripod. Then, I waited until the sun started to dip below the horizon before shooting.”

That patience was necessary. “In test shots made before the sun started to drop from view, its light blew out all color and detail in the lilies,” he reports.

The window for success here is only a minute or two, so McNeal suggests bracketing exposure and getting off as many shots as possible. Another requirement? A lens that’s well-coated to suppress flare.

See more of Kevin's work at KevinMcNealPhotography.com__.

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