Photo of the Week: Into the Sun

Photo of the Week
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I am not talking about the Steven Seagal movie here. It’s about photographing directly into the sun. Be aware, you never should look directly into the sun without appropriate protection for your eyes and equipment.

However, that day when I took these pictures I got super lucky. I was on my way to Lompoc for a weekend there and to photograph the launch of the Landsat 9 rocket launch

While driving along Highway 101, I noticed that you could look straight into the sun because of the wildfire smoke in the air. It was also cloudy that day as well.

I had rented an EF 600mm f/4L IS USM to photograph the rocket launch. After checking in to my hotel for the weekend, I went up Harris Grade Road to take pictures of the setting sun. 

Besides the rented EF 600mm I also had my EF 2x Extender with me. I mounted both on my Canon EOS 5D MKII and set it up on my tripod. This gave me an impressive focal length of 1200 mm. Wow, I want a lens like that. 🙂

While shooting the sunset a few locals stopped at the same turnout and asked if they could look at the sun through my camera. I turned on live view so they can all see it on the display at the back of the camera.

I took plenty of photos of the setting sun as. Unfortunately, there was a dense cloud front at the horizon which covered the actual sunset. Either way, I got great pictures of the sun itself. The wildfire smoke-filled air acted as a natural solar filter in this case. Without these circumstances, I would have never been able to capture these images of our star.

Sun Spots

The images turned out better than expected. You can even see some of the sunspots in the pictures. First I wasn’t sure if these sunspots are not actually dust spots on my sensor. As the sun kept moving lower to the horizon, I had to reframe my shots a few times. Because of that, the sun ended up in different areas of my frame. By comparing these frames, I noticed that the spots on the sun are always in the same location, no matter where the sun is located in my frame. Postprocessing helped to clean up the image and remove some of the smoke and cloud layers. Therefore I ruled out these spots to be dust on my sensor. These spots couldn’t be any objects like satellites either for the same reason. The sun is moving towards the horizon but I don’t know of any satellite or other object following the same path to be visible from this location. They are actual legitimate sunspots. I couldn’t believe it. I really wish I would own a bigger lens, but as a nomad, a lens like the one I rented is just too big to always carry with me on planes.

Amazing! I have to look into doing this more often and getting the right gear for my camera set up to take pictures of the sun even during regular days with no wildfire smoke. It was a great coincidence that the day turned out this way and gave me the opportunity to take these amazing pictures. 

Warning:

  • Do never look into the sun with your naked eyes. No matter if it’s by directly looking at it or through your camera’s optical viewfinder. This can cause permanent damage to your eyes or even blindness.
  • Never point your camera directly into the sun, especially if you use a lens with a large focal length, without appropriate protection like a solar filter. It can damage your camera.

I am sure we all have captured images of the sunset, but have you ever tried to capture images of the sun itself? 

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