Volcano Sunset

abq_4886_1210-Edit-fiThe topography around Albuquerque is like none other I’ve experienced. To the East are the Sandia mountains. To the West, mesas dotted with the remnants of ancient volcanos. Over 100,000 years old, they stand as silent testaments to the processes that formed the land in the surrounding area.

I captured this scene on the same evening as a number of my recent images. As the sun settled toward the horizon, I could see a small gap in the clouds. I knew that if the sun hit that gap, and I had my camera set correctly, the effort would reward me with a starburst from the sun. Getting the effect doesn’t require filters or other trickery, just a little camera physics knowledge. Light diffracts, (spreads), when passed through a very narrow opening. Before using my spot meter on the brightest portion of the sky, I changed my aperture to f/22. With the entire scene at infinity, depth of field was no problem, but I knew how the sun would react to the narrow aperture. Under normal conditions, I tell photographers to avoid apertures narrower than f/16 because  of the potential for an unsharp image, but under circumstances like this it’s just the ticket. It was just another case of understanding the “rules” but also knowing when to break them.


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