I'm so glad you found me! I'm a San Francisco photographer, and this blog charts my journey in the ever-evolving world of photography. One of the things I love about photography is that it's a journey, not a destination. I'm constantly learning and meeting wonderful people. Please peruse the blog to your heart's content, then check out my website and feel free to contact me! (I love hearing from you.)

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow." – Imogen Cunningham

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” – Edward Steichen


I went out walking because I wanted to capture some of the wonderful slanty San Francisco afternoon light. It's like butttah, people. Yellow, directional, not too bright. It's gorgeous. And because I live in the heart of the downtown, this light goes away at about 4 pm. The tall buildings around me simply swallow it up.

Now, I didn't know what I wanted to shoot, but I knew this light was the key. And I knew I wanted it as a backlight. I saw it in the park, behind these trees, and I stopped down to f/16 to get those rays of light nice and defined (did you know that's how you do that? You won't see the rays of light at a small aperture number), and took the shot just as the man was between those two trees.

And I love that shot. Love it. I love the light, where the man is, the green, the nice halo the trees are getting, everything!

But I knew I had to try to make a sunstar. It was perfect light for sunstars, and I've been not so satisfied with my efforts to date.
Quick and dirty recipe for sunstars:

Step 1: Find some slanty morning or afternoon light. You need the sun pretty low in the sky. Winter is perfect for this, the farther north you live, the better. (Part of why sunstars were difficult in Thailand - but no excuses here!)

Step 2: Point your camera toward the light. You need the sun in the frame. It's that simple. No sunstar without the sun.

Step 3: Stop down like you mean it. At least f/22. I tried this at f/16, and no dice. (I'm talking about aperture, folks. Bring that aperture number up. Make the hole your camera gets light through as small as possible. This has some downsides, but that's a subject for a different post.) If you're using a point and shoot, the highest aperture your camera has, maybe f/8 or f/11. Set your shutter speed and ISO so that you get a proper exposure, and can hand hold the camera if that's what you're doing.

Step 4: Partially obscure the sun. This is the important step. It's not going to work if you don't do this. Use a building (or a tree, like I did), and get rid of most of the orb of the sun. Why? Don't ask me. That's a topic for a different post as well. Maybe written by someone else.

Step 5: Take a picture! You know how to do that, right? Mash your finger down on the big button on top of your camera.

Step 6: Go have a beer. You've worked hard, you deserve it. (Note: this step is not essential, but it makes the whole process a lot more fun!)

If you have any great sunstar images, please link to them in the comments. And let me know, which of the above images do you like better? I think I'm leaning toward the first one, even though the sun isn't in the frame.


  1. I wish I had sun to try your technique...it turned out very cool! It is hard to say which I like best...Probably the first for the image as a whole - love the way your eyes travel with the light through the image...the contrasts between light and shadow is fabulous! In the second image my eyes go straight to the star...I really don't notice the image except as an after fact. You taught me something new...thank you....this is why I love this blogging! :)

  2. Hello! I found you at Bull Rhino's blog - I love your photos!

    I am looking forward to looking around a bit more! :o)

  3. Great job on that and super great tips/tutorial!

  4. If I had seen the second shot first I would have liked it a lot, but I think the posting order was on purpose as the Guy in Green, is an important element, unless you are trying to say "I had this all to myself"! I went through a series of these last year but none as good as this one.

  5. Actually what I like the most on both of those images are the colors and the rays of sunlight and overall feeling. The sun star on the second is just an additional feature. I need to try it. In the spring.

  6. Love these photos, both of them. I learned two things here too, one because you said it: how to get sun rays to be visible (I had them in photos before by accident, but never knew the aperture had anything to do with it), and something you didn't say but it shows in the photos: I don't have to be afraid of having cars and city life in the background when shooting nature. I always try to avoid that, thinking it will spoil the picture. These photos show that it doesn't! Which means I now have many more locations nearby to try and catch that light :-)

  7. i love the different shades of green in the picture... the first one without the sunstar is also great... The recipe for shooting a sunstar is cool.. Gonna try it this weekend.. Will tell you how it turns out.. Keep up your good work...

  8. Love the golden sunshine you captured! I'll have to give your techniques a try one of these days.

  9. Enjoyed the photo tips. You have some lovely images. It's fun to see the work of fellow photographers.

  10. Thanks so much, all of you. Sriraam, if you do get a sunstar photo be sure to link to it in the comments here, I'd love to see it.

    Els, happy to have finally taught you something. Your images are so beautiful.

    And, I want to remind you all that a winter sun is also great for making sunstars. In fact, it's better in some ways because it's a little less bright and it's already closer to the horizon. I'd love to see a sunstar through some icy trees, or on the top of a snowbank.

  11. Thanks for sharing the tips with your photos. I can't wait to try some shots like this.

  12. Very nice shots both of them. i think I like the one with the person for the composing. A very clear way to get a sun star. I'll buy you a beer! In post I would have darkened the parked cars and/or blurred them.

  13. Love the tutorial. I did not know that you had to stop down to get the rays of sun, but I'm going to try it this weekend!

  14. Jessica! Love both of these shots! Nice and warm, very restful on the eye. Great composition, color and contrasts. Since I have just a point and shoot camera that I've not gotten used to yet, don't know that I can make any of these kinds of settings. Just different selections for different subjects.

  15. Hi Jessica! Here's my first attempts http://mamasealpup.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-first-attempt-at-sunstars.html
    Thanks for the recipe!

  16. Hi Jessica, Google brought me here while researching for my own "sun-star howto" :-)

    Nicely written, and great photo! I actually prefer the first one, though, without the sunstar, for overall composition and mood.

    P.S. I linked to your blog from here http://www.alpenglow.info.


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