Flare Battle

Hi there!  Last night I really wanted to get out and take some shots at sunset.  There is snow everywhere and is bitterly cold in Massachusetts but I was ready to get some fresh air having been cooped up all day.  All the lakes are frozen and covered in snow which makes for less impressive shots than a nice frozen lake with cracks and cool features (pardon the pun).  I thought the coast may be better for some drama, water motion, and snow-covered rocks so I decided on Eastern Point lighthouse which I’ve been to a few times, although not in winter.  It is located near Gloucester, North of Boston and is a little tricky to find as you have to travel on road marked Private and into the Yacht club.  There is never any problem parking once there, although it it is a bit convoluted and there are several pot-holes.

When I got there, I made my way behind the lighthouse.  It was so quiet, just the waves lapping against the rocks which were indeed icy, and snow covered.  I did encounter a couple of problems though as I tried to get close to the water and the lit rocks.  The first one was self inflicted.  I’d forgotten to clean my filters before leaving home which led to a lot flare in the shots.  I had time to clean the filter but the spray from the ocean was also depositing specks on the filter leading to even more flare.  Aaaagh!

Here is one of the worst I think I’ve ever had!

Bad flare example - Eastern Point Lightouse

It wasn’t the most dramatic of sunsets, but had it been spectacular I would have been disappointed with the number of flare-spoiled shots.

There are a couple of fixes to reduce flare, but if you are shooting at F16 to get a sun-star you are setting up for an higher likelihood of flare.  What I did was take 2 shots; one at F7 and one at F16.  The F7 shot had little flare and no sun-star, the F16 had some flare  and a sun-star.  I used photoshop to blend the shots allowing me to get the best of both worlds.  The best way is to have very clean filters (or none).  This is a similar approach to taking a shot with the sun and one where you block the sun with a finger and then blend the images.  This didn’t work so well for me in this case because of the position of the sun in my composition.

Eastern Point Lighthouse Sunset in winter

I ended up with my favorite photograph being a moment after sunset so there was still some gold, warm light on the ice and no flare.  Classic winter in New England landscape!

Eastern Point Lighthouse sunset

Happy shooting!

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