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Photographing a Solar Eclipse

Updated on August 11, 2017
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Full eclipse in its totality

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The solar eclipse that will span most of the United States will take place on August 21st, 2017. It will start in Oregon and will go as far South as South Carolina. For the best times in your area consult any number of articles by simply performing a Google search. Keep in mind that you cannot look directly at the Sun with a naked eye or through the lens of your camera. It will probably cause irreparable harm to your eyes and more than likely will damage your camera gear.

So how do you safely take a photo of this eclipse? Well you really need a few pieces of gear to be safe and get the best image possible.

"There are four types of solar eclipses: A total eclipse occurs when the dark silhouette of the Moon completely obscures the intensely bright light of the Sun, allowing the much fainter solar corona to be visible. During any one eclipse, totality occurs at best only in a narrow track on the surface of Earth" Wikipedia

So be ready and remember that we have been waiting for about 99 years for this celestial event to come to our backyard.

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You need a DSLR camera that can accommodate different lenses because you are going to want to place a telephoto lens to get a good size magnification. For best results try to use at least a 200mm to 300mm lens.

For the camera the best results will be obtained with a camera with the highest megapixels that you can afford for the most color and sharpness. Your cell phone usually has about 2 to 8 megapixels if you are using a top end model so no, they won't give you the best results.

You will also need a solid tripod to steady the camera with the lens mounted. Remember that most telephotos are heavy and long so a cheap tripod might not do and this may cause some camera shake. Even if the camera shake is slight at the magnifications of most telephotos, the movement will show in the images.

I will further recommend that you use a mechanical or electronic shutter release. The motion of your finger depressing the shutter can sometimes be just enough to produce camera shake and end up ruining a perfect shot. Releases reduce the chances of camera shake to almost 0% so they are worth the money. They can go from about $17.00 to over $99.00.

Awesome view but you need more specialized gear for this type of shot

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https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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The most fundamental or crucial piece of gear to have in hand is a solar filter or solar filter shield sheet. Filters can run from about $59.00 and upwards and filter sheets start at around $25.

Using the filter requires some skills as you place it on the camera right before the eclipse starts, take it off during the total eclipse and remove it once the eclipse is over.

"REMEMBER TO USE YOUR SOLAR FILTERS while the eclipse is not total, and DON'T use filters while the eclipse is total. DURING TOTALITY ONLY, it is perfectly safe to look directly at the FULLY eclipsed Sun! If you do not have proper filters for your camera equipment, then DO NOT attempt to take pictures of the eclipse!" http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/photographing.HTM


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Cheap solar eclipse viewing glasses. About $2.00 each

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By No machine-readable author provided. Bree~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Make sure to play around with your gear well ahead of the event. Know your parameters and what everything in the camera is for.

Pay close attention to the settings and read over the manufactures' instructions. Better to get acquainted now than latter.

You need to be comfortable in using the long exposure setting and if able, set it for manual (it goes on when you depress the shutter and off when you depress the shutter again).

Very important is to not use any flash while the eclipse is taking place. You will distract others and end up making people really upset at you.

During darkness if you fire a flash you will interrupt the eye's ability to adapt to the dark and even if for a moment you will look like a fool, so don't.

If you want to experience the solar eclipse with your own eyes while the camera does its thing then use any of several inexpensive glasses made just for that.

They range from about $1.00 to around $14 each. Cheaper if bought in bulk like for a school project.

BTW, if you are thinking of using your expensive brand name sunglasses, don't, they do not offer the protection that your eyes need. But don't take my word for it, here is what the folks at NASA have to say:

'Never look directly at the Sun. You can seriously hurt your eyes, and even go blind. Proper eye protection, like eclipse glasses or a Sun filter, is the only safe option. Sunglasses don't work.

Protect your eyes seeing a solar eclipse.

How Not to Watch Solar Eclipses

According to NASA, the following materials should never be used to view a solar eclipse:

  • sunglasses of any kind
  • color film
  • medical X-ray film
  • smoked glass
  • floppy disks

The Sun’s UV radiation can burn the retinas in the eyes leading to permanent damage or even blindness. This can occur even if your eyes are exposed to direct sunlight for just a few seconds.' NASA

DIY set up using multiple staked filters

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© 2017 Luis E Gonzalez

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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
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      Luis E Gonzalez 2 weeks ago from Miami, Florida

      Donna Herron: Thank you . Hope it works out!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 2 weeks ago from USA

      I am excited about the upcoming solar eclipse, as we live in the direct route. Thanks for posting this very informative hub about capturing the eclipse. I know my husband was planning to take photos. Your information will be very helpful.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
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      Luis E Gonzalez 2 weeks ago from Miami, Florida

      Alan R Lancaster: Well it's good to know you're still here

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 2 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Still ticking over, Luis, although mostly on the 'parent' site. I use my little Canon 'Power Shot' A2500 digital mostly in a 'Photo Journalistic' capacity (to provide images for some of my pages). Whilst I try to make these images interesting, they're fairly 'pedestrian'.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
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      Luis E Gonzalez 3 weeks ago from Miami, Florida

      Alan R Lancaster: Glad to see you're still part of the community

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Handy piece of information here, Luis. My finances don't run to this kind of outlay, but the glasses would be useful next time it happens here. The images you've added are first class, though. Keep up the good work. TTFN

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
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      Luis E Gonzalez 3 weeks ago from Miami, Florida

      Aldene Fredenburg: Thank you very much!

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      Aldene Fredenburg 3 weeks ago

      Love the article, Luis! Pinning it and putting it on FB.