Saturday, August 12, 2017

In preparation for Total Solar Eclipse Aug 21 2017! Be prepared for the pit falls and the things professionals don't tell!

I am getting ready to head to maximum totality zone and hoping to do some photography. Way back in Feb 1980 in India, I did some total solar eclipse photography. I had just bought a used 200 mm lens, which with Babubhai's help made it fit my then cannon camera just a two days before the eclipse. We were heading to Karwar but instead we landed up in Yellapur with Chandu's relatives. I was shooting film those days. So was very conservative as to what I shot and could not see the results immediately. But I did manage to get good diamond rings (both just before the totality and and just after the totality), orange Bailey's beads and even coronal flares. I also got some good partial eclipse photographs too. But don't remember what filters I had used for partial totality exposures. There were no eclipse goggles available at that time to us. Now I am armed with digital cameras and a 500 mm lens, so I am hoping to better than 1980. So decided to give it a try even before the eclipse. I bought Daystar solar filter through, which just today I learnt that it may not up to the US standards as it might damage my eyes and Amazon gave me a warning not to use that and refunded amount. But before this I had already given a try with filter, which was supposed to fit any lens from 90 to 109 mm outside diameter. It did not work well with the original style they had suggested. So finally, I used duct tape to hold the filter in place and shot some pictures. I will make some points later for wannabe photographers.
Today on recommendation from Earle Baldwin, I got a number 10 Welder's glass lens as that was the only thing available at the store . And I also got a pair of #10 Welding glasses from Harbor Frieght tool. Both of them seem to work well. I tried shooting the sun with much better results. I still need to play around with exposures and settings.
But more than that there are a few other things to be considered. So please make sure you are prepared with these unforeseen conditions. 1. Consider the altitude of the sun. As the totality occurs near midday the sun is going to be very high in the sky. If you are planning to use a tripod make sure you can aim your camera to the sun. 2. To focus the sun you have to tilt your camera towards the sun and you cannot avoid directly looking at the sun to bring it into your view finder. At this point it would be nice to have some cover over your head and view finder to block the sun as in the olden days photographers used to do to see in the screens of field cameras . I used emergency blanket, but still the sun was bright through that, may be you want to find a blanket which blocks the sun completely. 3. I used welding glass lens to photograph the sun but had to hold with my left hand in front of the lens, which was rather difficult as my hands were short to reach the tip of the lens. I barely managed at 500 mm lens extension. So if you are trying something make sure it fits snugly and flat on the lens. 4. It is best to try it out with your device prior to actual shooting day.