August - hurricanes You are here: Home Techniques Photographing halos


Introduction

There is a vast variety of halos possible in the sky, some of which are very common, others exceedingly rare. Halo photography differs in difficulty depending on which of those halos you want to photograph. The most difficult thing is to make sure you are in the right place at the right time, with your camera ready, when a rare halo occurs.

Lunar halos are nice to photograph, because the time exposure will blur cloud details and make the halos look much better.

Photography equipment

I recommend using an SLR camera, so you have good control over your exposures, and can use a wide variety of lenses. For halo photography I use lenses ranging from fisheye to beyond 200mm. The average gear to do halo photography includes:

  • SLR camera
  • fisheye lens
  • 20mm lens
  • 28mm lens
  • 28-80 zoomlens
  • 80-200 zoomlens
  • tripod
  • cable release
  • exposure meter

It is recommended that you block the sun by an object, to avoid lens flares.

The exposure meter will be built into your camera; however, for true fisheye exposures, the light meter in the camera might not be visible, since the fisheye will project the image on a circle at the center of your frame. So, a separate light meter is very useful when you plan on using fisheye lenses.

The cable release and tripod are useful for photographing halos at night. The full or gibbous moon is equally capable of producing halos as the sun is, and halos at night can be very beautiful because the stars may be visible in the photo.

Light metering

When doing halo photography, always make sure the light source (sun or moon) is blocked or outside view. Otherwise, there will be lens flare and loss of contrast. You do not really need to block the sun if the halo-producing cloud is so thick that the sun is diffused.

In particular, keep an eye at the sky away from the sun: several very rare halos are possible in that part of the sky, such as the Wegener anthelic arcs.

Never light-meter with the sun in view, or your photos will be underexposed several stops. This is the same reason that many people complain about sunsets being underexposed: the photos look too dark. Always light-meter with the sun blocked; preferably don't move away from the halo to light meter at a different part of the sky, in order to light meter away from the sun, as that part of sky may give you the wrong exposure also.

Polarizer filters

The blue sky, and all the halos, are polarized to some degree; you can exploit this polarization to make your photos have higher contrast, by using a polarizer filter. The polarizer filter will (if rotated properly) increase the brightness of some polarized halos, while decreasing the brightness of the surrounding unpolarized clouds.