"Sharing life's adventures through photography"

Lens Flare

When I first started taking pictures using my mother's Kodak Brownie, she instructed me to always "keep the sun to your back." That was many, many years ago when I was just a child learning to take outdoor snapshots of our family and pets.

Things have changed a lot since then. Now I seldom ever have the sun to my back. I prefer the sun off to one side or the other, and in some cases coming straight toward the front of the camera. This latter is known as backlighting because the light is coming toward the back of the subject being photographed.

When photographing cactus, especially the giant saguaros of southern Arizona, I like to use backlighting to give them a halo effect. Unfortunately backlighting can cause problems with lens flare and precautions must be taken to avoid it. The left photo is a good example of lens flare. In the right photo I shielded the lens from the direct rays of the sun.

Flare on the lens - Picture # Without flare on the lens - Picture #

In addition to the annoying light colored arc at both the top and bottom of the left photo, it also has slightly less contrast than the photo on the right.

Lens shades should be used whenever possible, but sometimes even that does not always solve the problem. In the right photo I held a wide brim hat that I was wearing, above and slightly in front of the lens being careful not to get it in the picture.

Also, a small umbrella makes a good shade. Several years ago I bought a small white collapsible umbrella to use as a diffuser while photographing wildflowers and I have on occasion used it to shield the sun from striking my lens.

Notes about the photos:

I took these photos April 19, 2002 late in the afternoon in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument just north of the Mexican border in Arizona. Camera was a Nikon F100 with an AF Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED Zoom lens. I used a Bogen 3021 tripod with a Bogen 3055 ball head to hold the camera. Film was Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color.

These photos were scanned with an HP PhotoSmart Photo scanner into Paint Shop Pro. The only adjustments I made other than adding my name and a border around the photos was to use the unsharp mask to bring back sharpness that was lost in the scanning process. I tried to keep the images as faithful as possible to the original slides.

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Last updated or revised on February 5, 2013.
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