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Photography Question 
Christie E. Kleinert

Pentagon Shapes in Direct Sun and Moon Shots

  Sunset at Eleven Mile Reservoir
Sunset at Eleven Mile Reservoir
Sunset lacking sun
© Christie E. Kleinert
  Moon at sunset over water
Moon at sunset over water
best effort at focusing moon
© Christie E. Kleinert
I have taken nice shots of sunsets, none with the actual sun still in the photo, I always end up with those pentagon shapes in the photo or a blurry sun, with or without a filter on the lens. I've also had the same problem with a full or almost full moon, mainly when it seems focused I shoot and the picture is a big blob of white. I have a Canon EOS Rebel 2000. The only pictures I could upload is a shot of what I always get, the post "sunset", and the moon picture is a little out of focus but I tried! Any suggestions for sunsets or how to better focus on the moon? Thanks!

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12/6/2001 9:57:31 PM

Ken Pang   Hmm, all I saw in your photos are jpeg compression artifacts.

However, whenever you take photos of a light source, you are never going to get a sharp point. It's always going to flare. (I believe the term is lens flare, but I could be wrong)

I think, though, more likely in your case, it's actually because the sun/moon is way over exposed. Because the surrounding black is so dark, the camera wants to expose the film more, until it has an average of 18% grey on your film. Of course, that means that any bright points are going to be a blurry blob of light.

To avoid this, you need to spot meter from the moon (good luck with the sun! - actually, don't try it. I've heard that it's possible to damage some light meters by pointing them at the sun) The down side of this, of course, is that the rest of the photo will then be pitch black. It's an unavoidable consequence because of the thin exposure latitude of film. (IE, film cannot see both very bright and very dark like the eyes can)

Hope this helps.


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12/7/2001 4:04:38 AM

Christie E. Kleinert   Thanks! I guess that means maybe I should also try underexposing by 1/2 to 1 full stop? I think you gave me some good places to start! Again thanks!


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12/7/2001 4:56:55 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
Pentagon shapes in your photographs? If you still have the instruction sheet for your lens, look up its specifications. I'd bet dollars to donuts it has five aperture blades in the aperture diaphragm.

Wide open, the aperture is formed by the round lens barrel. As it stops down, these blades form a polygon shaped aperture. Many of the Canon EF lenses for the EOS system have five blades and these form a pentagon shaped aperture at anything but wide open. When a very small and very bright light source (compared to the rest of the image) is within the field of view, the light from it bounces around inside your lens and cause a bright spot in the shape of the lens aperture diaphragm. This is called "aperture flare." Filters won't do anything to eliminate it. In fact, they can make it worse or create additional problems with the added air/glass surfaces for light to reflect from and bounce around inside your lens.

Some lenses are more prone to aperture flare than others; it's a function of lens design related to formulation of the glass elements and groups, anti-reflective optical coating(s) on them, location of the aperture diaphragm inside the lens, and the construction of the lens barrel (placement of light baffles and effectiveness of the "flocking" to reduce internal reflections).

(1) Take all filters off your lens under these and similar conditions that have very bright small sources of light either in view, or just outside of view but still illuminating the front of the lens. Use a filter *only* if it's a specialty type desired for artistic reasons (e.g., graduated neutral density, "star," multi-image). The desire for the special effect should be strong enough to outweigh the risks created by adding more air/glass surfaces for light to reflect from.
(2) Use a lens hood! This helps keep off-axis light sources outside the field of view from adding to the problem.
(3) Look carefully in your viewfinder for this effect. You won't see the pentagon because your lens is held wide open until you trip the shutter, but you should see a round spot. In the viewfinder, they're very small, dim and easy to miss; not nearly as prominent as they end up in the enlarged photograph. If you spot one and it's objectionable, try recomposing to see if you can eliminate it and still maintain a desirable composition. If it's from a source outside the field of view, and you already have the hood on the lens, use something to shade the lens with to block it. I've used my hand, hat, gray card, a coat hung or propped up on something (or held by a friend), and on one occasion a large maple leaf. Just ensure whatever you use doesn't end up in the field of view!

-- John

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12/9/2001 11:33:38 AM

Jagdish D   As far as shooting pictures of moon goes, you could use the sunny 16 rule to set the exposure as it is directly lit by the sun. Try using a exposure of f8 and 250 shutter speed which would give the same exposure as the sunny 16 rule. Using a faster shutter speed is better to freeze slightest of movements.

For the sunset, wait till the sun is really low on the horizon. Meter from an area next to the sun excluding the sun from the field of view. Set the reading and then recompose your picture.

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12/10/2001 11:57:30 PM

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