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.