Tips for Photographing Into the Sun at Sunrise or Sunset

Los Angeles Sunrise
Sunrise over Los Angeles from the top of Kenneth Hahn Park

The settings for the shot above, I used a 100-400mm zoom lens at 200mm, 1/3200 second @ f/5.0, ISO 125

Photographing into the sun can be tricky, but if you follow a few tips, you can get spectacular results!

  1. Get there early, before the sun rises or sets, find a spot and setup so you are ready to shoot when the action begins. The sun sets and rises very quickly, you will only have a few minutes to get that iconic shot. There are several apps Sunrise-Sunset, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (available for android and iphone) that can help you find out the exact time at your location.
  2. Shoot in the Raw format to retain the broadest range of colors and tones. You will need to process your Raw files in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or other editor. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet you can find to help you get started, if you are new at processing Raw files. An explanation or lesson is too lengthy for this blog post.
  3. Shoot in Aperture Priority, because the light will be changing rapidly. The sharpest part of the lens is usually two or three stops from wide open, I recommend starting there. F/5.0 – f/8 in this range, will also work well. Or, for more drama, try stopping your aperture down (very small opening) to f/22. This will enhance the rays coming off the sun, giving them a starburst look.
  4. If you have a lens that has an image stabilizer built in, only use it if you are hand-holding. If you are using a tripod, turn image stabilization off. There will be a switch on the lens, if it has it. Just remember to turn it back on when you are finished, otherwise your next photo session could have some blurry shots.
  5. Hot Tip! Use exposure compensation to underexpose your shots. Sunrise and sunsets work best underexposed by a stop or two less.
  6. Do not use any sunset/sunrise automatic modes, if your camera has them. They are fully automatic modes designed to assist those with no technical knowledge, but in most cases these modes will not give you the best results.
  7. Tripods are recommended. Although you will be shooting at fast shutter speed, I still recommend a tripod. It forces you to be more deliberate with your composition.
  8. Auto white balance is ok, but if you want to more control of the warm tones, set the white balance to shade. This will increase and enhance the orange hues.
  9. Remove the UV filter if you have one on your lens. I stopped using these filters long ago, and found they offered no benefit, and in fact could make things worse. Light will bounce of the filter and refract all around the inside of the lens, creating bright areas. These filters can also reduce contrast and saturation because the glass often has no coatings.
  10. Meter the scene away from the sun itself, on a medium-bright areas in the frame. never directly into or on the disc of the sun itself. Use Evaluative (Canon/Sony) or Matrix (Nikon) metering modes.
  11. Turn off Auto focus. Manually pre-focus on an object (cloud, mountain or building) in the distance nearest the sun. A tripod is recommended, and this will prevent your auto-focus from hunting, if it has trouble focussing. Because you only have a brief time to get the shot, any delays will cut your shot count down and you may miss the best shot.

Composition Tips

  1. Clouds are your friend. Best sunset/sunrise shots are right after a rainfall, when the clouds are beginning to clear. Although, any clouds can add more drama to your shots. Low lying fog or mist can also add drama.
  2. Find an interesting foreground object, a building, tree, people, anything that adds interest, and creates depth, and include them in your composition.
  3. Avoid centering your horizon line. Set the horizon either closer to the bottom or to the top of the frame, dependent upon what is more interesting, the sky or the foreground. Most likely, it’s the sky, so place the horizon lower. The rule of thirds overlay in your viewfinder can help you compose. But, rules can always be broken, so do what you think works best.
  4. I like using a telephoto lens for sunrise/sunset shots. Any focal length from 100mm – 400mm will work great. At long focal length, the sun will appear oversized, and the foreground and background will become compressed (appear closer together). Conversely, if you prefer to make the sun look small and the scene to appear more vast, use a wide angle lens.

Happy photographing!

A Timely Show

On Tuesday, November 15, I was honored to photograph And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank at the Jersey City Theater Center. Produced by Normal Avenue Productions, the show is a poingnant multimedia play by award-winning playwright James Still, directed by Susan Kerner. It weaves videotaped interviews of teen-age friends of Anne Frank, Holocaust survivors Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg, with live actors, recreating scenes from their lives during WWII.

The message of senseless persecution of people worldwide, based on nationality, religion, race and gender, could not be more timely. Eva Schloss, an internationally honored Holocaust educator and posthumous stepsister of Anne Frank, participated with the actors and director in a post-play discussion.

Fortunately I was available when I received the invite to photograph. I’m happy I was able to provide this amazing group with my photography, and I hope the shots help as a reminder of what intolerance and hatred did in WWII.

Much thanks to Eden, Jeremy, Susan, Olga and all the cast and crew of Normal Ave Productions and Jersey City Theater Center. Please support your local arts centers.

I added sound to this set of slides and happy to share. It’s HD, view it large and crank up the volume:

And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank from Ivan Boden on Vimeo.

It’s yellow, has black stripes and can sting.

It’s not your everyday bumblebee, but a special “Transformers” edition, LT2, 2010 Bumblebee Camaro.

 

Front End

 

Themed from the movie Transformers, this Bumblebee autobot is one cool ride.

In reality, it’s the female bumblebee that stings if threatened, the male is basically harmless 😕 . This has nothing to do with the movie, but I wonder if Tamara, this Bumblee’s owner, may have something to say about that! Tamara? (hehe)

Tamara and her husband Greg are good friends, and when Tamara announced she bought this car, I had to photograph it. Much thanks that she agreed, and so we spent an afternoon photographing, here, in my studio/garage. It was pouring rain and miserably cold, so we were unable to do some planned rolling shots. Instead, I concentrated on details and made the best of the bad weather.

This car has awesome lines and with patience adjusting lights, moving the car into position, I came up with some shots that I think turn an ordinary shoot into something much better and befitting of this car.

First, some specs:

  • Year: 2010 “Transformers” Camaro – US build quantity was 1,900 with 200 delivered to the Canadian market.
  • It’s a type LT2: LT is marketing short for Luxury Touring and is used to identify high-optioned models.
  • Colors: Yellow, black racing stripes, “Transformers” badges and a black leather interior.
  • Engine: V6, DOHC, direct-injection w/variable-timing, 304hp @6400 rpm’s and 3.6-liter/220 cubic inches. This is a quick car.
  • Mileage: EPA 18 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Impressive economy for a performance car.
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual. Manual is more fun, period.
  • Brakes: ABS 4-wheel disc
  • Tires/Wheels: p245/50R19. Nineteen-inch tires are big, mounted on solid 19×8 polished billet Aluminum.
  • Suspension: 4-wheel independent, MacPherson struts front, Coil over gas shocks multi-link rear. Stabilizer bars, front and rear. It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • Weight: 3,872 pounds. This is heavy. Could benefit from a diet.
  • Audio: AM/FM/Sirius XM/CD, Aux. audio input via USB, 9-speakers, Boston Acoustics Premium, total 245 watts. Yay.
  • Comfort and convenience: Leather seats,  leather shift and steering wheel, driver seat 6-way power adjust, heated seats, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power steering, brakes windows, door locks, reading lights, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control. Me like.
  • Instrumentation: Classic style “meter” gauges, oil pressure, transmission temp, tachometer. I love old-style metered gauges, I hate digital.
  • Telematics: wireless phone data link via bluetooth.

I’m sure I missed something, but you get the idea.

Here’s the light box with some favorites:

My fondness for Camaro’s goes back to high school. My first car was a 1974 Type LT Camaro, in Inca Bronze, with a 350 cubic inch v8 and I purchased it used in 1977. So glad I found these old Polaroids.

Cheers!
Ivan

Eight Years

Empty Chair

 

Eight years ago, I first stepped into the auditorium as a volunteer at the campus of Bergen County Academies, to photograph “Metamorphosis” a show in which my daughter was performing in.

I have completed my last show “Evita”, and it’s been an amazing journey since! I learned so much and made many new friends along the way. I will miss my time at the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, and miss those amazing productions, gifted students, generous parents, and the best teachers I have ever met. I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for providing me the opportunity to photograph so many shows, while improving my skills,  and most important, giving back through photography.

It’s been a joy, and I”ll never forget.

Here’s some numbers!

8 Years
23 Productions
71,633 Total Photographs, Including Outtakes, Sets,
Portraits and Behind The Scenes

The shows!

2008 Metamorphosis
2009 Into the Woods
2009 The Cradle Will Rock
2009 An Absolute Turkey
2010 Children of Eden
2010 The Caucasian Chalk Circle
2010 Ghetto
2011 42nd Street
2011 Loves Labours Lost
2011 A Civil War Christmas
2012 The King and I
2012 Madeline J. Small is Getting Smaller
2012 The Madness of King George III
2013 Brigadoon
2013 You Can’t Take it With You
2013 Antigone
2014 Bat Boy, The Musical
2014 Macbeth
2014 Seventh Son
2015 Kiss Me Kate
2015 DoXXED
2015 Our Town
2016 Evita

Cheers to all,
Ivan

Mercedes Benz SLR, Before-After

I was attending a conference in Florida a few years ago and noticed this beautiful car parked under the hotel entrances’ canopy. It was the perfect photo opportunity as the canopy blocked the direct sun and most of the reflections. I took advantage and shot a few quick ones. I had forgotten  about the shots until recently, and decided to process one.

Here’s the before-after. Not too bad for a spontaneous photoshoot, using the existing light!

Ivan

Time

It slips away fast and before you know it, the face you see in the mirror is not the same.  A few more lines, a little more gray. One thing is guaranteed, nothing stays the same. I always had a tough time with that. I love new experiences, but I like some things to never change. Feeling nostalgic!

Cheers,
Ivan

Automotive Details – Jeep Liberty

This is my first in a series, featuring detailed automotive photography.

Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot
Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a Jeep for my first shoot because I own it. Owning your own car for a shoot makes it a heck of lot easier to work into your schedule.

There were several challenges, but most of them were in the prep work.

First of which, my car is not new. It’s a 2010 Jeep Liberty with approximately 30,000 miles.

It has it’s share of wear, with dings and scratches, and worn tires.

I needed to clean the car thoroughly with a good car wash, and detailing. Yeesh! That was hard work! The dark metallic gray color took a lot of hours to wax and polish. Getting all the streaks out was a challenge, and I was not completely successful.

I knew if I didn’t do a careful job, all the wax and spots would show up in my shots, so I did my best to do a good job.

All of this work was done during a heat wave, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was in the garage. I used a fan to help take the edge off, and planned the shoot to take place in the evening, when it was a little cooler.

In preparing the space in the garage, the floor was too dirty for the shoot. So, I decided to give the floor a fresh coat of paint!

Ugh, more work!

I spent the next few hours power-washing the floor and when it dried, I gave it a fresh coat of paint. Not the entire floor, for that would have involved moving everything out, which I didn’t have time for. So, I pushed all the stuff we’ve accumulated as far to the side as possible.

So far, that’s two days of prep invested in this project!

Finally, time to shoot the car!

I setup a single Einstein 640 strobe with a 10″ x 26″ strip box. In addition to the small strip, I used a huge Fotodiox 12″ x 80″ strip box for the wide shots of the car’s front end, and side of the car, but I much preferred the small strip box for most of the detailed shots.

I sandbagged an Avenger stand with a boom arm, to be sure it wouldn’t tip over.

It took the usual trial an error to see where the light fell, but eventually I figured it out.

Here’s the shots (click photo to enlarge):

This was a tough shoot, but fun to do, despite the challenges and the heat and humidity!

Camera
Canon 5DIII
24-105mm L f/4.5
85mm, f/22 @ 1/200

Strobes
(1) Einstein E640 @ 3/4 power,  w/sync cord
10″ x 28″ PCB strip box
12″ x 80″ Fotodiox strip box

Grip
Avenger A5043 stand with extension boom and grip head
Giottos sand bags

Cheers, Ivan

Virtual Machine

A new addition to our Smiles Are Free bag of tricks, courtesy of Mike Abshier, is a virtual background system. I was put in charge of the equipment, and asked to test it out. Being the skeptic I was doubtful this would work, and be a viable piece of equipment. Although I have to admit, I was intrigued with the concept.

How it works — you place a 2.25″ slide transparency in the machine and it projects the image onto a special screen. The lamp works like a strobe, so you never see the image until it’s exposed. There is a modeling lamp, but the only way to preview it through the lens. This allows you to alter a pose or reposition your model. The screen is about the same size as an 9′ backdrop. Your subjects stand a few feet in front of the screen. Miraculously, the background appears in your shot. There are some issues. Your strobes must be feathered away from the background. Any spill will wash out the background image.

Here’s the setup:

Virtual Background Machine
The setup is involved and requires a lot of calibration to align all of the components.

Test 2, I finally got the image to appear. And yes, this has got to be the ugliest room I’ve ever seen.:

Test 2
Test shot of a projected “virtual background” scene

Test 3, with me in the scene. One beauty dish with strobe, on low power. f/4 at 1/160, ISO 100.

Moi Boudoir
Ok, I know, I could have at least smiled for the picture! :-}

Here’s my quick review:
The system works. Do I love it? Uh, not so much. Does it have possiblities? It might. I don’t like locking my camera into a machine that can’t move easily. This can be solved with more expense, but you are still limited in movement. I’m not a tripod shooter when I do portraiture. I like to move around and be spontaneous. This system locks you in. The backgrounds they offer are cheesy-wiz schmaltzy. It comes with about 22 backgrounds. You can buy more and they sell hundreds, or you can shoot your own film. This opens up some possibilities. I’ll shoot some more and post soon. There may be one or two they provided that might have some merit, but most of them I don’t like very much.

It’s a very controlled system. Your lighting needs to be spot on and gelled to match the lighting in the projected image, otherwise, you look cut-and-pasted into the scene, as I do in the un-gelled example above. This takes some doing and a lot of experimentation.

Portability – the screen weighs a ton. It’s actually two screens, sandwiched together. A silvery backing and black mesh in front. It rolls up into it’s own holder and mounts to standard background stands. The projector mounts to heavy gear-head tripod. This thing also weighs a ton and has a fragile glass – beam-splitter mounted to it. It will need to be broken down and packed in an optional hard case, to be portable. It’s a big deal to move it, set it up and transport. Not very practical.

If you are looking for a way to minimize Photoshop collage work (I happen to love Photoshop colgaging!), and like the idea of instantly changing a background scene, and providing a customer a quick, on-the-spot instant photo, there is a business model here. It reminds me of a mall photo studio where moms bring their babies. Ugh. In reality, you could actually make a business out of this thing. Is it creative? it could be, if you shoot your own backgrounds, have a wardrobe of accessories, makeup artists, costumes… whatever. Will I use it? Hmmmmm. For Smiles Are Free…, I might, since we now own it. For my own work or anything else… no.

CAVEAT:
THESE ARE TEST SHOTS ONLY and NOT indicative of my photography, creativity or skill. The background scene of a velour couch in the ugliest room I’ve ever seen, came with the system. It is absolutely awful. The shot is tilted…because i’m still figuring out how to align… and the color is off… no correction gels were used yet.

Check back again for more test shots.

Cheers,
Ivan

Old Tractor, Before After

After being inspired by the latest Perfect Inspiration video by Brian Matiash, I remembered a shot I took of an old rusting tractor in 1999. I thought I’d go back and re-visit post processing to enhance the shot further.

I loosely followed the steps on epsiode 16, getting lost, but changed a few things to better suit the tractor photo.

I think you’ll agree, it’s a decent improvement. As I do more, I’ll continue to post more before and after shots.

I used Lightroom 4 to make the initial minor adjustments, then OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.1 to add the gritty feel, vibrance and selective focus. I created several layers with various blending effects to bring out the rusty decay in the photo. By adding the focal-point, selective blur effect to the background, it brought out the tractor, adding dimension.

Below is the before-and-after. Drag the slider left or right to see the comparison.

Much thanks to OnOne software’s Brian Matiash, for his terrific series of videos that inspire and teach at the same time. It’s helped me learn to use their software.

Thanks for visiting!