On Using Sunbursts To Happy Up Your Grunge Shots :)

By | 2012-02-28T09:21:09+00:00 Feb 28th, 2012|

I just couldn’t stay away.

I tried and I tried some more but I had to return back to this place yesterday after I was done at onOne HQ. And you know what – I am really glad I did. The plan was to meet my good bud, +Jeffrey Yen, and shoot some more brackets around this texture-rich place. I was worried that most of the water that had previously accumulated on the ground would have evaporated with the beautiful weather we had yesterday, but I was relieved to see that there was still enough of it puddled around and thus we had some amazing reflections.

I got to the scene about 10 minutes before Jeff and went to work right away. I noticed this wall the other day when I first shot here and thought, Wouldn’t it be awesome to catch the sun through that hole in the wall? Well, as luck (and good timing) would have it, the sun was low enough for me to pace around and find the right angle and distance for it to poke through that hole. It was a nice way to use a natural element to truly accentuate this manmade scene.

The characteristic of a sunburst effect is dictated and varies based on the number and quality of blades that make up the aperture of your lens. In this case, I was using my Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L prime lens, stopped down to f/16. Had I used my 50mm lens or my 17mm TS lens or even my 15mm fisheye lens, the quality of that burst would be different. It’s all about experimenting with how your lens reacts to the sun in the frame. The smaller your aperture, the more pronounced it should be. Again, YMMV and experimentation is critical. I know that my 14mm and 15mm prime lenses produce my favorite burst effects and that’s why I had them with me. It also seems to have more of an impact when the sun is at a 45-degree or lower angle rather than, say, at high noon.

Also, I find that the best application of a sunburst is when it interacts with your scene, as is the case here or when you catch the sun against the corner of a rooftop or through some tree branches. I don’t find it nearly as effective when it’s just sitting up there in the sky by itself. Just something to consider.

In terms of processing
This shot would be impossible without tone-mapping and so I bracketed it across nine frames using the wonderful Magic Lantern firmware on my 5D Mark II. Tone-mapping took place in Photomatix. Stylization was a bit trickier. I ended up applying six or seven custom built effects in +onOne Software Perfect Effects (not to worry – I saved the preset and will distribute Pack #3 soon). I will say that my custom built Tone Enhancer effect was key, as it helped cut through the flat haze that appeared after tone-mapping.

I finished things off in +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom3 by applying slight global contrast, vibrance, and clarity boosts.

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14 Comments

  1. Jon Wollenhaupt February 28, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    May I ask why you want to "happy up" a grunge shot? I personally think grunge creates a great mood. Thanks for sharing this. Cheers – Jon

  2. Brian Matiash February 28, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    +Jon Wollenhaupt It's all about juxtaposition, my friend. I'll take it any way I can get it.

  3. Ryan Katsanes February 28, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    I know that spot! Only been run off by cops one time out of about a dozens shoots there.

  4. Andrew Marston February 28, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Great write up of the processing. You prefer Photomatix for tone mapping over other software?

  5. Randy Walton February 28, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Great info. Thanks!

  6. Scott Gant February 28, 2012 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Reminds me of my pre-press days when I'd be retouching a catalog shot for the old Sears catalog or flyers. They had one art director that would give instructions like "can you make this seem "happier"?

    Great info though on the sunbursts.

  7. Gilberto Graciliano February 28, 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

    very nice !

  8. Kyle Heeb February 28, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I wish I could like it twice. Great photo!!!

  9. Bobbi Varadi February 28, 2012 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Perfect !

  10. Ramon Nuez February 28, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash I really enjoy your work. It's just so well done. Now you took 9 frames because of the Sunlight?

  11. Brian Matiash February 28, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    +Ramon Nuez – Yeah, there was a massive shift in dynamic range and all nine brackets (at 1-stop intervals) gave me a good grade of detail from image to image. It required a lot of finesse to expose everything properly but sometimes that is what ya gotta do. :)

  12. Ramon Nuez February 28, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash thanks — and again it looks great! And +Magic Lantern :-)

  13. André Scherpenberg February 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Cool shot!

  14. Bob Lussier February 29, 2012 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Very nice shot. Love the grungy goodness.

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