Shooting Into the Sun: Back-light + Flash = Cool Effects

_MG_2639I have long shot macro mostly with side- or front-light, although using a macro twin flash gives me the flexibility to shoot in most any direction. However, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered shooting directly into the sun can create some very cool effects – under the right circumstances.

I came upon a butterfly in a field of grass as the sun was getting near the horizon behind some trees. On a whim I wondered what would happen if I shot the butterfly with the sun directly behind it. The sun was a bright circular orb on my LCD screen in Live View and it was difficult to see the butterfly’s eyes and wings with clarity, but I managed to get off a few shots and hoped for the best.

_MG_4569Judge for yourself one of the images I produced. The sun came out hexagonal as it was filtered through a prism and the flash exposed for the butterfly in the foreground. I’ve since experimented more and learned that the direct sun can illuminate the subject beautifully when off to the side or top and out of the screen. I also discovered that it only worked when the sun was low to the horizon and filtered by clouds or trees – otherwise it just washed out the image regardless of the camera and flash settings. Slight variations in position and orientation of the camera can create completely different effects as you can see from the attached multiple images of the same subjects shot seconds apart. The biggest challenge was finding focus and positioning my camera accordingly.

Shooting into the sun is counterintuitive and was never taught in any of my photography classes unless one wanted to create a silhouette, but in the macro world it opens up new and surprising and dramatic possibilities when the conditions are right.

Steve Russell