Sunday, August 6, 2017


     Taking photos of the solar eclipse may present some difficulties worth considering. Because of the brightness of the Sun, most individuals need to contact a camera expert or store on particular cameras and setups to produce good pictures. Most cell phones cameras do not have the lens necessary to make a large enough image of the Sun. The light from the Sun, especially if magnified could damage the internal light sensor. A cell phone will photograph the totality safely. Many professional photographers will be attaching cameras to telescopes which have solar filters. Many telescopes and spotting scopes allow cameras to be affixed to the scopes via adapters. Solar filters are an expensive item for a camera. Scout your location a day or two in advance to see the path the sun will take across the sky on the day of the eclipse.
     A solar filter must be used on the lens throughout the partial phases for both photo-graphy and safe viewing with sunlight involved. WARNING: Regardless of the filter system you employ, take care to ensure the filter does not accidently come off your rig while photographing the sun. At totality, don't forget to remove filters. Also, cameras must use a long enough lens that you'll actually see something where standard point-and-shoot cameras will make the sun's image way too small.  You will need at least a 300mm focal length lens. (Test it out on the full moon - which is about the same size as the sun - to see what your results will be.) Use a tripod if you have one to keep your system steady. Set your ISO to the lowest value like 100. Operations work best on the camera mode Manual. Some of these ideas require experience or practice.
      Even if you are just taking a picture of totality, preparation is essential to success. Make a checklist of everything you'll need, and check that you've packed everything before you leave home. The next and most important step is practice. Pre-focus all your cameras on the full moon two weeks before the eclipse (some tape down the lenses to their focused setting with duct tape). Think of anything that can go wrong, and plan for it. Run through the entire sequence of your actions beforehand, until it becomes automatic.  Make sure you have a memory card to hold all of the frames that you will shoot especially during totality. Change ALL your equipment's batteries to fresh ones the night beforehand. If you’re in the path of totality, bring a flashlight. It can get dark enough during totality that you won’t be able to see your camera settings without one!  Remember that when totality hits, you may lose your ability to think clearly - keep it simple!   

      Good Total Eclipse photos can require hundreds of pictures to be taken and then many hours of post-processing with the computer are necessary to achieve an above average photo. ! If you're uncomfortable in any way with the technical aspects of filters, f-stops, and quirks of more advanced photography, one better start practicing. Test everything beforehand until you can do it all in your sleep.DO NOT USE A FLASH OF ANY KIND!  You will ruin the dark adaptation of everyone's eyes, and will spoil the show for them all!  The easiest way to determine exposure is to practice on the un-eclipsed sun on a clear day prior to the eclipse.  You must ensure that there is NEVER any chance AT ALL that anyone could possibly look through an unfiltered camera lens at the Sun!

Pictured here is Fred Espenak, Mr Eclipse, in Libya for the Mar. 29, 2006 solar eclipse. Note the solar filters on the front elements of the telescopes and the Nikon D-SLR attached to the telescope closest to him, cable release in hand.

Tips provided here includes information from: Fred Espenak, Nasim Mansurov, Jerry Lodriguss, and the American Astronomical Society/National Science Foundation 

     Most astronomers advise to just sit back and enjoy the visual show - there is a lot to see and experience. Wasting time with a camera will detract from the splendor. Enjoy it with your own (protected) eyes. Burn images into your brain that will be better than photos, and will last the rest of your life! However, photographing a solar eclipse is both thrilling and exhilarating. A good photo provides a tangible memory that will never fail to bring a chill or a tingle. Even a simple camera will produce a picture of Totality that captures the moment.       Don't forget to take some grab shots of the horizon and the crowd going crazy during totality. In fact, set up a video camera (pointed at the people around you - NOT the sun!) and let it run during totality, so you can always relive the foolish things you screamed during totality!   Remember, there will be professional photos on the computer.   -Dan Slais

Dan Slais is a retired 8th grade earth science teacher from Waynesville, MO.  He has taught Astronomy and Geology for Columbia College and has worked as a seasonal National Park Ranger for seven seasons. 

Join us August 18-21, 2017 for Midnight at Noon, a four day music festival and eclipse viewing event in Owensville and Rosebud, MO.  For more information click HERE

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     Part of the experience of seeing the total solar eclipse is to be in the right place at the right time. With all the information provi...