On Aug. 21, photographers all over the country will have about two minutes and thirty seconds to capture one of the most awe-inspiring celestial events in their lifetime. Let’s go over a few tips on how-to freeze those moments accurately and safely.
For starters, make sure you have proper eclipse viewing glasses. Sunglasses offer nowhere near the protection needed. Even most wielding helmets are ill-equipped to handle the sun. They need to have a rating of 14 or higher. If you are not within the 65 mile wide path of totality you will need to wear your eye protection during the entire event. If you’re not sure, check out this map bit.ly/2qNNeGh.
If you’re a cellphone photographer you can purchase an extra set of eclipse shades and tape one of the eye pieces over your lens. This will allow you to correctly expose your images and better yet, keep from roasting your camera sensor. That brings us to shooting the eclipse with an actual DSLR. The longer the lens you have the better. 2000mm is ideal for a FX or full frame sensor, 1300mm is adequate for a body with a DX or crop sensor in it. Consider renting a telephoto lens if you don’t own one. I must admit I’ll only be at 420mm so I’ll be cropping a lot.
You must use a solar filter on the front of your lens. Otherwise you will almost certainly do damage to your camera’s sensor. The only time you can and should shoot the sun without a filter is during totality. I found a great eclipse exposure guide here bit.ly/2v2mbxh. Considering the magnitude of this event, doing a time-lapse or creating an eclipse composite using layers in Photoshop may make for an interesting take on the days events.
My former college photography professor and Vice President of the Magic Valley Astronomical Society, Tim Frazier, has mentioned that exposure from partial to totality will be around 12 stops. During the entire partial eclipse exposure should hold steady. Once the diamond ring occurs, exposure will rapidly change, next will be Baily’s Beads. Again, exposure will be rapidly falling off, meaning you’ll want to start slowing your shutter speeds. Use a tripod so you don’t have to worry about hand holding your camera and have a cable release or intervalometer. Once totality occurs, remove your solar filter, mine is a Marumi ND-100,000 and take the money shot. You should be able to see the white corona, red prominences, and chromosphere.
At this point, take a moment for yourself. Don’t let the photography get in the way of experiencing this celestial event in real-time. Animals might go silent, stars will have appeared along with the planet Venus. Etch the moment into your mind. It’s rare to experience a total solar eclipse, and you’re fortunate to get to.
Other things to watch for while viewing the eclipse are shadows. They will behave oddly with crescent rings forming during the partial phase. Just before totality begins a phenomenon called shadow bands occur. To witness these place a white sheet down on the ground and watch as odd shadows dance across it. More info on shadow bands can be found here go.nasa.gov/2tOdYgh.
“The power the ancients felt is still here,” Frazier said. “This will be the most awe-inspiring event of your lifetime. You will actually see, first hand, the mechanics of the universe.”