Photographic newbies always seem to rush out and buy a starburst filter early on in their explorations. Save your money. Starburst filters create inferior effects. Creating a starburst the conventional way is very easy.
To create a starburst set your exposure mode on Aperture Priority [A] and use the command dial to set the aperture as low as it will go. That's usually something on the order of ƒ16 - ƒ32 depending on your lens. What that gives you is a tiny hole [aperture] that allows light to pass through the very center of the lens barrel only. Next compose your scene, making sure there is a small but extraordinarily bright source of light included in the composition. Usually this is the sun.
To protect your eyes wear sunglasses, squint, only glance momentarily at the scene to compose and work quickly. The camera should not be pointed at the bright source of light for more than a second or two at a time either, to avoid damaging the insides. Cameras equipped with "Live View" allow using the LCD monitor rather than the viewfinder, to compose.
Usually the full view of the sun is too bright and will overwhelm the sensor. In such a case use your subject to block out all but a tiny corner of the sun, using that as your starburst source. Wide angles tend to work better at achieving starburst effects than do telephotos so try working with your shorter focal lengths. That will, of course depend on the lenses you have access to.
Once the scene has been composed, snap the shutter and point the camera away from the sun, squinting and shading your eyes to further protect them.
I wanted to create an image contrasting a teepee at Vancouver's aboriginal festival, with the surrounding urban structures. Conventional compositions weren't working so I moved in close with a fisheye lens, using a bottom-up approach. The bright white of the teepee forced me to use a small aperture, giving me an opportunity to work a starburst into the scene from the sun while simplifying the commercial architecture with silhouette.
Another starburst, this one created in the California desert, using the gnarled and twisted trunks of trees to mask all but a tiny sliver of the sun as it passed through a gap. To get the positioning right I had to lay down on the sand face up, arch my back and shoot the scene upside down. Once again an ultra wide fisheye was used to achieve the starburst effect.
Foliage in Stanley Park beneath Lions Gate Bridge became the mask blocking out all but a corner of the sun in this starburst shot. Once again the ultra wide was used.
A gap in a palisade of Ainu totems called "Playground of the Gods" atop Burnaby Mountain masks enough of the sun to create a sharp edged starburst. The fisheye lens is not only ideal for starburst effects, it also tends to saturate the blues of the sky, creating a rich contrast.
All photographs were taken by Brian Grover.