By Laura Thomas on | No Comments
Seeing a total eclipse of the sun is a rare and extraordinary event in anyone’s lifetime and there will be one over North America on August 21. The last solar eclipse over the United States was February 26, 1979 and I still remember my sophomore biology teacher warning us to protect our eyes and not look directly at the sun during the phase when it passed over us. However, it’s been nearly 100 years since a total solar eclipse has passed over the United States and one thing that makes this eclipse so unique is that it will be visible to such a large percentage of the U.S. population.
The path of totality will be visible (depending on weather conditions) along a narrow path stretching from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina according to Space.com. If you live along the path of totality, you are in for a once in a lifetime experience! For the rest of North America, Central America and northern South America, a partial eclipse of the sun will be visible and dependent on viewing location. In order to determine how much totality will be in your local area, check the Great American Eclipse site where instructions on how to read the maps is explained.
The pull of photographing such an event is exciting but requires good preparation and planning. Below is a list of tips and tricks to use when photographing the eclipse along with links for more detailed explanations.
1. Safety first. I cannot stress this enough - Do not look at the solar eclipse without appropriate protection for your eyes! Even if part of the sun is covered by the moon, the light streaming around the sun is still too bright for the naked eyes. Please, protect your eyes! Solar eclipse glasses are available for both children and adults.
2. Getting your gear together. It is possible to photograph the eclipse with your DSLR and you will need the following items:
3. Camera settings. Much like shooting the moon, there are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your camera so that your images are sharp and capture the detail of this extraordinary event. Much like shooting the moon, there are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your camera so that your images are sharp and capture the detail of this extraordinary event.
Shutter Speed. Remember, the moon is traveling across the sun so you will want to stop motion with your shutter speed. Approximately 1/125 will do the trick and while you might be tempted to up it to 1/1000 (or higher depending on camera body), it won’t really give you an advantage.
Aperture. You’ll want a medium aperture of f/8 or f/11. This will produce a sharp image without having to worry about chromatic aberration or diffraction. If you open your aperture up too much (f/2.8, f/4, etc), you’re gambling with the overall sharpness of the moon and sun. Conversely, stopping down the aperture too much (f/16, f/22) can cause the light to reflect throughout the glass elements of the lens and leave behind abnormal optical artifacts.
Live view. This handy feature on your DSLR will help you with both composition and focus. You can use the zoom tool on the back of your camera while in live view to fine tune your focus manually. Auto focus might work, but you’ll need to quickly preview and zoom in to make sure things are sharp but you’ll want to be really quick if you use this method. Depending on where you are in the path of totality, you will most likely have some form of daylight during the event and will want to check exposure when setting up focus.
Remote trigger or delayed timer. Even when using a sturdy tripod, pressing the shutter with your finger can cause a tiny bit of vibration which will lead to a blurry image. Instead, use a remote trigger or set your camera for a two-second delay for maximum sharpness.
Chimping. Previewing the back of the camera is great, but don’t spend too much time doing this or you will miss the eclipse! There will only be a few minutes during the total eclipse so maximize the opportunity and admire your work after the event is over.
Laura is married and has two children who keep life exciting. She loves people, capturing beauty and enjoys a spending time with her family. She is the Co-Founder of PRETTY (Pretty Presets, Pretty Actions + Pretty Forum).