Photographing Haze and Sunspots

A view from a sheltered bay in the spectacular Milford Sound in Fiordland, New Zealand.

I made this photo on a cruise through the magnificent Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was stunning.

But it’s the haze, some of it evident as sunspots, that I feel elevates this image above that of a snapshot.

Detail of two candelabrum on the altar of St. Peter's Eastern Hill Anglican Church in East Melbourne, Australia.

Advice About Haze From an Old Timer

A lot of folks say you should never photograph into the sun, or other bright light sources, unless you’re wanting to create a silhouette.

Haze, apparently, is to be avoided at all costs. Haze can result in a loss of sharpness, contrast and saturation.

That’s certainly true though, sometimes, the emotional impact of the photo is more important than whether or not it’s critically sharp.

Fortunately in the photo at St. Peter’s Eastern Hill Anglican Church in East Melbourne I’ve been able to ensure that the two candelabrum are sharp while adding a sense of mystery into the background.

It was simply a matter of creating a good composition and photographing directly into the light.

As you can see the two candelabrum are largely unchanged by the effects of the background haze.

Viaduct, Taieri Gorge Railway, New Zealand

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Should You Fear Sunspots On Your Photos?

Some folks see sunspots as a kind of blight, a pox on their pictures.

But impactful images are about much more than the usual technical and compositional attributes we so often associate with a good photo.

Haze has the advantage of creating very atmospheric effects, which I think you’ll agree is an advantage in the case of the photos in this post.

Atmospheric flare, emitted from street lights, in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The effects of haze become evident when you photograph into very bright light, day or night.

A filter, particularly one that’s partly covered in dust or fingerprints, is likely to enhance/extend those effect and introduce the appearance of sunspots into your photos.

You might like to try to incorporate haze into your photos, every now and again.

If you don’t like the color, size or amount of sunspots try shading the front glass element of your lens to reduce the haze and, quite possible, eliminate the appearance of sun spots.

Of course you should take care to avoid looking directly at the sun with the naked eye.

To do so through a DSLR camera is particularly problematic as the camera’s internal mirror can amplify the brightness of the sun and damage the eye.

So have fun but, as always, take care.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru