Preparing to Photograph the 21 August 2017 Solar Eclipse? Practice, Practice, Practice

If you’re going to try to photograph the solar eclipse on 21 August, practice what you want to try out. Totality will last less than three minutes at best. You just have one shot.

I’ve been practicing and preparing for Monday’s solar eclipse by going over my equipment, trying photographic methods, and thinking what it is I’m really trying to do in seeing this event.

First and foremost, I want to experience the eclipse, not spend those few precious minutes fiddling with gear only to realize later that I missed the whole show. That means planning what I will and will not do, in detail.

I’m planning on setting up one camera on a tripod to take a series of wide angle shots that can be stacked afterward to make a composite image. This must be set up with a solar filter that can be popped off at the beginning of totality and then on again at the end. The good thing is that with that camera running on its own intervalometer it’s pretty much a hands off process.

A practice run of solar images captured with a dSLR running on internal intervalometer with a brown plastic solar filter. The sun covers its own diameter in the sky in about 2 minutes. This image is cropped from a larger composite lasting a fee hours. It represents about 50 minutes of the sun’s movement through the sky.

My most complex set-up will be a 125 mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope equipped with a mylar solar filter, set up on my old black EQ4 mount for viewing, twinned with a dSLR with 500 mm telephoto lens for detailed coronal photos at totality. I’ve been working out the basic details of exposure times this week.

A telescope equipped with a mylar solar filter twinned with a dSLR camera and a 150-500 mm telephoto lens, also behind a mylar filter. This setup will not follow the sun with accuracy: it will have to be corrected manually throughout the eclipse.

I’ll also have a video camera set on wide angle to record the overall setting. My fourth camera will be a “general purpose” dSLR to take photos of the event and my colleagues as it unfolds.

The main thing is to be able to set things up efficiently and then paying attention to the timing of the event. One key manipulation is to pop solar filters off of cameras during totality. I’m creating a checklist to keep my intended processes working minute by minute, with time built in to take the whole thing in.

Practice, practice, practice!

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“Night-Time Photography” at RBG: An Unabashed Plug

This post is a plug for a new public program at Royal Botanical Gardens that I will be presenting in February and March. The goal of the program is to introduce participants to photographing the night sky with camera and tripod, although we will talk a little about telescopes, too.

There are many wonderful things to photograph at night. You can take a look at some of my examples here at the Pine River Observatory blog, on my page entitled “Astrophotography Gallery.” We’ll consider both celestial objects – like the moon and stars – and also landscapes at night.

The stars make arcs in the sky in long exposures. This image was composed from about 120 individual wide angle photos taken with a Nikon D7000 on a tripod.

The stars make arcs in the sky in long exposures. This image was take along the shores of Lake Huron in August, 2012. It was composed from about 120 individual wide angle photos taken with a Nikon D7000 on a tripod, using free software called StarStaX.

On the first night, in the classroom at RBG Centre in Burlington, we’ll take a look at examples of night-time photography, and go through the basics of photography at night, including the kinds of scenes likely to be encountered and the equipment that might be used. There will be a light (pardon the pun) orientation to objects in the night sky, discussions about where and when photos may be most effective, and what limits photography at night. We’ll also talk about handling photographic equipment in cold weather.

The second night will be a practical  night out shooting the sky. The date for the second night is variable and will be shifted as needed, primarily to accommodate the weather. Keep your fingers crossed for some clear nights at the beginning of March!

The third night will be “show and tell” for the participants, and examples of working with software to prepare final images. It will likely be in later March, but might also be shifted, with the permission of everyone, to accommodate fitting in appropriate outside time.

There are still a few places. You can reach the RBG’s on-line ticketing program at: http://tickets.rbg.ca/PEO/all_events.asp

To find “Night-Time Photography,” select the link entitled “For The Nature Lover” at the lower left side of the page.

This program is being offered for a fee that goes to support Royal Botanical Gardens’ important charitable objectives. I’m not getting paid for this program. Just so you know.

Royal Botanical Gardens presents "Nighttime Photography" in 2013

Royal Botanical Gardens presents “Night-Time Photography” in February and March 2013