Starbursts

In the feedback for Assignment 1, my tutor said, “The star filter unfortunately gives a couple of them an amateur photography feel.”

In an e-mail later, I responded, The starburst effect that is present in my photography isn’t due to a filter, but it a natural occurrence of the Voigtlander lens I use due to its aperture blades. I’m actually a big fan of these- for me, they put strong emphasis on the light sources that my work often requires. I’m just a little concerned that you consider them amateur-ish when they’ll likely be present through much of my photography.

He replied to that, The starburst effect detracted from those images where it was present, you can take this as my subjective view, but note there are none in Jesse’s book. A Google search of ‘landscapes sun‘ shows a number of shots with this effect. Look at the sites they are from; “wallpaper beta” “wallpaper123” etc, I don’t think you want be aligning your thoughtful work with works like this. “How do I get that starburst effect” is a common question from amateurs. You have to ask yourself, if the effect has the affect you want your photographs to have on the viewer.

What I wanted to consider with this short exploration into ‘starbursts’ is why they can be useful and why I’m drawn to them in my own photography.

As a nighttime photographer, light sources are extremely important. Without artificial light or the presence of the moon, it can be extremely difficult to take a shot that isn’t marred by extreme noise or a low f-stop. When a light source is within a scene, it can make a huge difference and naturally has a strong presence in the shot.

In Assignment 2, I’ve used them as a tool to further draw attention to the differences between the urban and rural scenes. The theme of the man-made and the artificial is strengthened by such unnatural flares and colours; in the second example below, the scene is bathed in orange light. In contrast, the far more rural setting in the first example contains no fixed light source- the colours are natural and only the presence of the garage denotes human interaction with the environment. The absence of lights implies quiet and ‘closure’- the strongly lit lamps express human presence and use.

3 9

“An amateur feel”

It’s certainly apparent that a lot of people online are looking for ways to ‘produce’ this starburst effect, likely as they are using lenses that do not produce it naturally. However, I think it’s unfair to assume that because people want to replicate it that is is a ‘bad’ thing.

Long-exposure photography is inherently unnatural, and I don’t see that the inclusion of flares or starbursts is any more out of place than that of the shutter speed itself.

I’ve always seen them as a flourish in my photography, a small detail that highlights the importance of light in night work.

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