Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting The Sun

I am the DP for student film shooting on super 16. The director would like a shot of the sun. I am wondering if anyone has an recommendations for shooting the sun or is it something that I should attempt to fake? Also there is an affect shot of the sun causing spots is there a way to achieve this in camera?

Scott Uhlfelder, Director of Photography
Orlando, FL

Scott Uhlfelder wrote :

>>I am wondering if anyone has an recommendations for shooting the sun...Also there is an affect shot of >>the sun causing spots is there a way to achieve this in camera?"

First and foremost- consider safety - the sun is nothing to fool with. DO NOT look into it without first being certain you are properly protecting your eyes - you could damage your sight without noticing it until after the fact.

If you decide to shoot into it directly, do not look through a reflex viewfinder without proper filter protection. Filters made for standard neutral density use on cameras ARE NOT safe for use into the sun. They typically do not absorb enough or at all in the most damaging areas of the spectrum- the UV and IR. You must obtain filters made specifically for the sun-they allow only a small fraction of one percent of the overall light through and also attenuate in the UV and IR.

Coronado Technology Group makes a comprehensive line of solar filters. (Quick disclaimer- I have no relationship to them). Reflections of the sun from glass or other reflective surfaces are also able to cause eye damage.

As for the special sun spot effect, you might want to try some 'kitchen magic'- take a look at solar spots in photos on the internet to see what they look like. Doug Trumbull made special effects for "Close Encounters" years ago by filming different liquids swirling together in a large container and playing with lighting. Use a close-up of a dark splotch in a white or clear liquid and see whether you can get a low-tech low cost version of the effect you want.

Remember that oil and water don't mix, and can be the basis for choosing materials.

It'll be fun to experiment...

Ira Tiffen

I heard about a photographer that would simply put his finger in front of the sun. It would reduce the light and the flare, and if he kept the sun near the border of the frame, the finger was invisible. Obviously, he used a tripod.

Don´t know exactly the word that names it, but maybe you could use that material that makes wedding dresses, that tight little net... in a butterfly.

Daniel Sanchis
UFSCar - SP - Brasil

I've shot time-lapse of the sun coming up, with lots of ND's, 7245. I've also shot some print and intermediate films in camera-EI is around ASA6. Call your lab and ask if you can have some short ends, winding B-you can try 7242 intermediate-there's also(2 perf only) 7272, or 3383 print.

You're probably better off shooting at near sunset since the atmosphere will help you out a little, and that varies from day to day, season, etc.

The problem is framing the sun while looking through the viewfinder. If it's a wide shot it's easier-if you fill the frame with the sun- in either case looking at it you risk damage to your retina-on my Aaton I can crack open the viewfinder lid, carefully approximate and frame it. On sunrise shots from a high building I was able to mark the position of the sun the day before and nail it as the first rays begun to come through.

On a sunset time-lapse I nailed it behind clouds-the cloud/sunset time-lapse was a nice combination. Experiment with different looks during transfer.

Best regards,

John Babl

Another option would be to get a pair of those glasses that where around for the eclipse - or borrow a welding mask (a local garage or iron works will have these).

Anna Carrington
Camera Assistant

Alex Fagundo wrote :

>>...shooting into the sun is very harmful...Longer lenses are more dangerous is that correct? Could a D.P. >>use the videotap of the camera for composing the shots? Would using the video tap fry the c.c.d. chip of >>the camera like it would your eye?"

Using a video tap, and viewing only the monitor as your visual framing guide would remove the danger to your eye otherwise posed by the reflex finder. Longer lenses more greatly magnify the sun's brightness in the image, increasing the safety problem. Remember, people put the sun into the scene all the time, but usually as a small bright point of light in a scene otherwise filled with lots of foreground detail. It's when you "zoom in" to fill the frame with the sun that the danger escalates significantly.

The sun's brightness is unlikely to do damage to the chip. Certainly not like it would to the eye. Besides, the chip is replaceable...

You should still consider a dense ND filter, or filter pack (stacking several to remove more light than one filter alone) to shoot the sun to give the proper exposure latitude, depending on what you want the shot to look like. Still, if you are using only the standard photo-grade ND filters, never use them to look through at the sun directly with your eye.

Through the video tap at the monitor is OK.

Ira Tiffen

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