As I get a daily dose of pretty spectacular sunrises where I am located on the island of O’ahu, I thought I’d share a bit as to how I capture images like the “ball of fire” sunrise above. There is a short version for experienced photographers, and a longer version for more detailed explanation below:
HOW-TO” SHORT VERSION
large aperture (low f-stop), fast shutter speed, low ISO, and no lens filter
“HOW-TO” DETAILED VERSION
Sunrises and sunsets. There are three ways I think of when attempting to capture and to create memorable sunrise photographs - here they are in non-technical terms: ball of fire, bathed in light, and sunstar.
In this issue I am going to speak to the first “ball of fire”, when the sun effectively comes out as a disc of light with well defined edges. Most likely the rest of the image is going to be pretty dark, as a result of such a range of exposure.
In order to get this effect you should use the largest aperture your lens permits (it’s going to be the smallest f-stop number … kinda counterintuitive) combined with a high shutter speed. The large aperture will create the smoothest and most defined edge for the sun, as there is little aperture blade for light to pass through. The high shutter speed is necessary to prevent too much light to pass through the lens overall.
Also, make sure your ISO is as low as possible - this will not only help prevent over-exposing the image, but also give you the best image quality. And if you normally have a filter on the lens, I’d recommend taking it off, as it can cause artificial light artifacts such as “ghosting”.
Finally … unless you are using an electronic viewfinder, do not look directly at the sun! It may take some time, but once you play around a bit, you should be getting results similar to this sunrise above!