We are now departing West Plainfield, CA: Shooting The Sun

Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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About the image~~

I worked a small gig outside Davis, CA for a 60’s party for two people turning 60. It was a very unique event and one of the coolest parts was the constant video of commercials from the era. Mostly in black-and-white, there was some of the worst still photography I’ve seen in AGES in those professional-standard TV commercials. LOL! Lettered graphics were badly stuck on white or coloured paper and it appeared that a single shot or two was duplicated enough times to make a longer image visible as a stagnant image on the screen. That would have been fine if someone had used a tripod for multiple shots. As it was, the image did more jumping around than all the little boys completely decked out in war clothing, shooting actual projectiles from realistic looking weapons. Kids that looked that realistic today would be shot by Homeland Security before they could pull out a metal replica of a Mattel 45 automatic! Worse were the cigarette ads but I couldn’t watch those as I remembered some of the ones that quite literally got my mother and other family members killed from cancer.

Chased outside by them, I saw that the sunset was going to be mostly unobstructed so thought I try some early/into the sun sunset shots.

About the technique~~


~~That warning seems only partially obvious since your Nikon D80 can both squeeze its aperture to the size of a needle’s eye and let you see it happen using its APERTURE PREVIEW BUTTON. But a small goof can and will damage both your eye and your camera’s image sensor!!! Don’t try it. Ever.

That said, how did I shoot this shot? I used the preview button and the shadow of the image on my left hand’s palm. I cranked the aperture down a LOT, set the f-stop at 2000, depressed the preview button, and tipped the camera until direct sunlight came thru the eyepiece onto my hand – NOT MY EYE – and took an IMMEDIATE test shot, lowering the camera afterwards. The image was to dark so I crept the aperture open in tiny increments until my shot was close to the lightness I wanted. Then I dropped the shutter speed a tick at a time until it was where I wanted the over all image lightness. Turned out to be 1250.

Step two was to play with the shutter speed/aperture mix to give my shot the depth of field I wanted to see. If you’ve got a good idea already, use the M (manual) setting to lock your aperture in place and experiment with shutter speeds, exposure offsets, or even screw-on filters, tho the latter can play havoc with your sunset’s luminescence. I used no filters or offset; I wasn’t interested in depth of field on this one.

Tip: I use my hand instead of a tripod so that I don’t accidentally forget to protect the camera from direct sunlight into the optics or get a nasty flash of sunlight into the eye from the still open viewfinder. Remember, it previews a darker image ONLY when you are holding the preview button down!


If you’re bright, you’ll probably find other ways to do this. DON’T. Get professional instruction! I’ve said, sometimes light-heartedly, “Anything for The Shot. This is a a firm exception to that credo! Save your camera, save your eyes, save your future!
Nikon D80
NIkkor 70-300 mm telephoto lens
Exposure time: 1250
ISO: 100 (off everywhere!)
Focal length: 70 mm
Nikon exposure program: Vivid with high saturation for sunset with wash-out possibilities from direct white light
November 22, 2008; 4:35:22 pm
Latitude: 38°34’40.15"N
Longitude: 121°51’29.47"W~~

Artwork Comments

  • Gramia97
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