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Old 3rd January 2010
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Re: anybody know how to help? E-410

Hi Catherine, and welcome.

Whatever camera you use, high contrast scenes such as these are bound to be problematic. The sun in your shot is high in the sky and hence exceptionally bright. The best time to photograph the sun is when it is just above the horizon at sunrise or sunset and therefore not so intense. Even then you run the risk of flare and the range of brightness in the scene can still be wider than the camera can cope with. It helps if you are able to partially obscur the sun with branches of a tree, for example.

WARNING, UNLESS YOU ARE VERY CAREFUL, YOU RUN THE RISK OF PERMANENT EYE DAMAGE BY LOOKING AT THE SUN THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER.

As Graham said, to get a good exposure you will probably need to either use a neutral density graduated filter or combine several different exposures of the same scene in editing software. The alternative is to expose only for the sun and let everything else in the scene turn to silhouette. Because silhouettes have no detail simple, bold shapes work best. The camera will still try to expose for the shadows so you may have to use the exposure compensation dial to make it do what you want. Choosing a scene with water in it helps a lot, because you get the sunset reflected in the water and this helps to break up dark, underexposed areas in the foreground.

If the sun is very bright, make sure your camera is set to a low ISO value and a small aperture is selected, otherwise the required shutter speed needed to record the sun correctly can easily be much higher than the highest speed on the camera.

Your moon shot was taken in the middle of the night and, apart from the moon, the image is full of deep black shapes with virtually no detail. The moon itself is very bright. In fact, because it is lit by the sun, a full moon has the same brightness as a typical daytime scene. So, if your camera is struggling to expose for those inky black shadows, the moon will burn out and flare.

The solution is to photograph scenes with the moon included just after dusk or just before dawn, when there is a little ambient light in the sky and your eye can discern detail in the shadows. You will still end up with an image that will need careful processing to get the best from it.

In difficult situations such as these it is best to bracket exposures by using the compensation dial to take frames at one and two stops over and under the metered exposure.

I would recommend plenty of practice between now and September. Post as many pictures as you can on the forum for critique and we will do our best to help.
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"A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity." ~ Robert Doisneau
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