Last week I mentioned how the sun can make a powerful focal-point when you have a flat sky. On that same trip to Oregon, I took this sunrise shot of Wizard Island and Crater Lake. I would have loved to get some clouds in here, but you get what you get sometimes and need to make the most of it.
There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to shoot a sunburst image like this. First, be ready to shoot right when the sun is at the edge of the horizon or some other object that partially obscures it. Once the sun is in full view, things are just blown out. The magic moment where the sun is visible, but not too visible, is only about 30-60 seconds most of the time. You can try to get creative by moving the camera, using trees, or other objects you can place to keep moving the sun to the edge of an object. If you work quickly, you might get a few more shots this way.
Second, direct sun is very likely to create flare in your lens. Keeping the lens clean is important to reduce this. It’s the little dust and other impurities on your lens that create most of the flare when a bright light strikes. You can shoot an extra frame with your finger blocking the sun (but as little else as possible) to have an extra frame to blend without the flare. That’s what I did for this image. It’s a great trick, but not foolproof. When you block the sun, the color in the area around the flare may change, and it may be hard to blend convincingly. So, some amount of color work or healing/cloning is often required.
Third, if you want a big sunburst, use a small aperture like f/11, 16, or even 22. Even if you are shooting the image at f/5.6 or 8, you can take an extra frame at a smaller aperture to get the sunburst and blend it into the image. Be creative, when you’re using layers and luminosity masks, anything is possible.