Well, that’s what I call them anyway. Some people prefer the term “starbursts”, or “sun-flares”, or even “diffraction spikes” for the more technically pedantic.

Whatever you call them, they can make for some fantastic effects in photography. Sometimes they help to capture the sense of heat and light in a scene, sometimes they can add a touch of poignancy to a subject, and sometimes they make a wonderful subject in their own right.

You create them by “stopping-down” (photographer’s jargon for closing down the camera’s aperture) and shooting into the sun. You may have witnessed a similar effect with your own eyes when squinting into bright light (please don’t now blind yourselves by staring into the sun to confirm this!).

Zoom lenses can create them, but I have found they are at their sharpest when using prime lenses – lenses of fixed focal length.

In the examples above, the best defined sunstars were made using a 20mm wide-angle lens, and the fuzzier examples with a 24-120mm zoom lens. (There are also some other examples in my two latest posts about memorials).

Having stumbled onto this relatively straightforward method of creating them, I now find that, when the sun comes out, I cannot resist finding opportunities to utilise them in my pictures.

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