Newsroom experts

Three photography tips for safely capturing the eclipse

A sunspot is visible as clouds pass over the sun Friday Aug 4, 2017. Photographed with a 500mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter on a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV. The lens was fitted with BAADER AstroSolar Safety Film (OD 5.0). Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register

According to NASA, the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse will mark the first time a total eclipse has been visible from the contiguous United States since 1979, and is the last time an eclipse will be visible from the U.S. until 2024.

The eclipse, which will cross a path from Oregon to South Carolina, is also a big deal because it’s the first time since 1918 that a total eclipse has crossed over the entire country.

Illinois is one of the 14 states in the path of the totality, so we asked the State Journal-Register‘s Ted Schurter and the Rockford Register Star‘s Arturo Fernandez, who are both heading to Carbondale for their eclipse coverage, for their best tips for how to safely get the best photos of the event.

The most important piece of equipment (aside from a camera)?

Both Schurter and Fernandez said that a solar filter is an absolute must for anyone hoping to capture images of the event and that filters ought to come from an approved source. It’s not safe for unfiltered eyes or cameras to be pointed toward the sun at any point during the eclipse, and Schurter also mentioned the importance of solar film for capturing the best images.

“Not all solar film is safe for optical viewing so be sure to check the specifications or use your camera’s live view instead of the optical viewfinder,” he explained.

Amateur photographers need apply.

Just because you’re more amateur than pro and lacking in the specialty equipment department doesn’t mean you can’t still get photos of the eclipse.

On the technical side, Fernandez said that exposure settings are key. “With the filter on, the exposure settings will have to be adjusted to factor in the blocking capabilities of the filter. A good starting point is using an aperture between f/8 and f/16 and a shutter speed from 1/800 – 1/4000 or whatever the fastest speed possible.”

On the technique side, Schurter gave several ideas for ways photographers can work within equipment limitations. “You can photograph the progression of the sun through a landscape with a wide angle lens without special filtration. You can use an intervalometer or a simple timer to capture images at a regular interval and create a multiple exposure photograph or build a composite image showing the path of the sun from sunrise through the end of the eclipse. You can sequence the images as a timelapse video. You can also try photographing a projection of the eclipse, instead, with simple paper and pinhole.”

Step by step (oh, baby).

As for the most important step in the eclipse photography process:

“Practice and planning,” said Schurter. “Don’t wait until the day of the eclipse to test whatever strategy and equipment you choose.”

“Timing,” explained Fernandez. “It’s important to pick the right stage (time) to capture the best part of an eclipse, which usually is the totality and the corona that comes with it.  It is safe to shoot and/or look at the sun during this period only.”

 

 

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