How to safely and successfully photograph a solar eclipse.
Nature Photography Star Trails Photography Basic Photography
June 1, 2018

Solar eclipse is a proof of the exceptional uniqueness of nature. If you are a naturalist or a sky watcher, a solar eclipse is bound to fascinate you day in day out. There are two kinds of solar eclipses, a total eclipse and a partial eclipse. A total eclipse is certainly a spectaular sight albeit a very rare phenomenan. A partial eclipse is more common and easily viewable. In case you are planning to witness this spectacle, you will want to capture it forever as well. Before you go out for it, you need to have a lot of preparations ranging from the study of the eclipse to the safety measures and photography.

Let us go ahead and check out the various safety measures required and the ways to photograph a solar eclipse perfectly.


1. When and where, precisely!

Gather as much information as possible before you plan to shoot the eclipse. You will need to find out the exact time of the eclipse, since it is a very short specracle. It will be happening for a few minutes only. Hence you will have to know the perfect location too, from where it will be best viewed. you dont want to run here and there when the eclipse is on, to get the best shots...

2. Safety measures

Safety is one of the most important things that should be on your mind, when yo are planning to view an eclipse. Same goes for photography of the eclipse.

You should never look directly at the eclipse. There are shades available in the market, knows as solar viewing glasses. These enable you to look directly at the sun during the eclipse, thus protecting your eyes. Watching the eclipse with bare eyes can cause ireversable damage to the eyes. You need to take care of your camera similarily too. Just like you are advised not to look directly, the camera also should not be pointed directly at the sun, since the magnification of the rays can cause a sensor damage. The solution is to use a certified solar filter. Remember that you cannot look directly through the viewfinder also. The viewfinder is not a rfilter! Either wear the solar glasses or use the LCD screen of your camera for photography.

3. What are you going to bring along

i) Tripod

The lighting conditions will change, obviously. You might be shooting in different shutter speeds throughout. Thw shutter speed may well come down below 1/30th of a second too. Handheld photography will not be advised. You need rock solid platform to get the bwst shots.

ii) Lens

A telephoto lens is required to shoot an eclipse. Obviously you can experiment with a wide angle lens too, by including the environmental surroundings. But in order. to shoot the eclipse only, you will require a telephoto lens with focal lengths above 400 mm. On a crop body, the equivalent focal length will be above 600 mm.

iii) Remote cable

You can try for a set of time lapse images. You will requirw a shutter release cable for the same. Even if you are not going for the timelapse shots, a remote cable will help you remove any unwanted shakes caused during the pressing of the shutter button.

iv) Other accessories

Whenever you are shooting an event of a lifetime, you need things in surplus. Eclipse is no exception. Carry extra memory cards since you will need to shoot in raw mode. A certified solar filter is going to be essential. never expose the camera directly to the sun or else you are going to end up with a damaged sensor.

4) The different phases

Get ready to shoot at different lighting conditions. The camera settings will have to be changed according to the phase you will be shooting. When you are trying to get shots of the partial eclipse, you will have to shoot at very high shutter speeds in order to get the exposure right. For an aperture around f8 or f11, you may have to shoot at shutter speeds of 1/2000th of a second or faster, keeping the ISO at minimum. In order to get the perfect shot, try image bracketing with 2 stops variation on either side. The solar filter has to be mounted on to the camera and all other safety precautions must be in place.

On the contrary, when you are shooting the total phase of the eclipse, the amount of light is going to take a beating.Hence the shutter speeds need to slow down to below 1/800th of a second own the safety precautions can be taken out and the solar filter can also be removed. Try bracketing again in order to get the perfect tonality, since your camera may not have the complete dynamic range to capture the eclipse entirely.



5) Composition

Whatever you may be shooting, your composition primarily decides the quality of your images. Think clearly of the shots of the eclipse that you want to have at the end of the day. You may want to include a bit of the foreground in order to add a new diamension to the image. You may also want to get a couple of crowd shots with their varied expressions. Obviously, getting close ups of the eclipse in both the phases is a must. Shooting the bright sun is not an easy task. You will require a lot of practice to master the exposure settings as you dont want to experiment everything on the big day. With regular practice before the eclipse day, you will know exactly what exposure triangle parameters you will need to set in order to get the perfect exposure in all your shots.

Shooting the partial phase of the eclipse may not be a chance of a lifetime but the total phase might just be. With proper practice, you should hold yourself in good stead to get great shots of the phenomenan. Make sure you shoot safely and shoot well!

Nature Photography Star Trails Photography Basic Photography
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