Photographing a solar eclipse can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The eclipse begins with a small notch slowly appearing along one edge of the sun. As time passes, the moon will cover more and more of the sun. During a total solar eclipse, the last remaining minutes of the partial phases can be dramatic. The crescent of the sun grows thinner as the moon’s shadow approaches. The sudden darkness of totality is stunning, and the solar corona is awe-inspiring. The sun’s corona can only be seen during the few brief minutes of totality. To capture stunning eclipse photographs, here are some tips and tricks:
Never look directly at the sun during an eclipse without proper eye protection. Use solar filters or eclipse glasses to protect your eyes and camera equipment.
Research and Plan
Familiarize yourself with the eclipse's path and timing. Determine the best location and vantage point for your photography.
Make sure you have the necessary equipment ready. Here are a few essential items:
- Camera: Use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual controls for greater flexibility. However, you can still capture good photos with high-end compact cameras or even smartphones.
- Lens: The longer the lens's focal length, the larger the images of the sun you can capture.
- Tripod: Use a sturdy tripod to stabilize your camera and avoid blur caused by camera shake.
- Remote Shutter Release: Use a remote shutter release or self-timer to prevent camera shake when capturing long-exposure shots.
- Use a Solar Filter: Attach a solar filter to your camera lens to protect your eyes and sensor. This filter will reduce the intensity of the sunlight and allow you to capture the eclipse safely. These filters typically attenuate the sun’s visible and infrared energy by a factor of 100,000. Almost any ISO can be used because the sun gives off abundant light. The actual filter factor and choice of ISO will play critical roles in determining the correct exposure. A “solar filter” is necessary to keep from harming your camera’s imaging sensor and for correct exposure.
Experiment with Exposure Settings:
During different stages of the eclipse, the lighting conditions will change. Start by using the camera's automatic exposure mode, but don't hesitate to switch to manual mode and experiment with settings such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve the desired exposure. The easiest way to determine exposure is to run a calibration test on the un-eclipsed sun on a clear day before the eclipse.
Bracket Your Shots:
Consider bracketing your shots to ensure you capture the eclipse in different exposure levels. Take a series of photos with varying exposure settings to increase the chances of getting a perfectly exposed image.
Capture the Stages:
Don't limit yourself to a single shot of the fully eclipsed sun. Capture the various stages of the eclipse, including partial phases, as they offer unique and interesting photo opportunities. These shots can be combined later to create a composite image.
Remember, photographing an eclipse requires patience, preparation, and practice. Be sure to enjoy the eclipse itself while also focusing on capturing memorable images.