Mark you calendars for August 21, 2017, if you haven’t already!
That’s the day that a huge tract of North America will get to enjoy the first total solar eclipse in decades (and for decades to come, too).
People have been planning their journeys to cities in the path of the eclipse for some time now.
And a lot of those folks are more than just fans of seeing something rare…
They want to document the occasion with their camera, too.
If you’re one such person but aren’t sure how to photograph the 2017 solar eclipse, I’ve got a few tips for you.
Naturally, planning is going to be an essential component of your solar eclipse photography.
If you haven’t already, determining where you’ll go to view and photograph the eclipse should be the first task.
Determining how you’ll get there and when you’ll get there is the second task.
You’ll also need to scout locations well in advance. You want an unobstructed view of the sky so you can capture the sun without any distractions.
The key is to arrive early – and I don’t mean 30 minutes before the eclipse.
In fact, you should be at your shoot location hours in advance, if for no other reason than to stake out a spot to set up your gear amongst all the other eclipse watchers.
Once there, you’ll need to set up your gear. You want to be sure to have plenty of time to do so, too.
The question is, what gear do you need?
Aside from eclipse glasses to protect your eyes, you’ll need a host of photography gear to make taking photos of the event a possibility.
The idea that you need a big, expensive, professional camera to get nice photos of the 2017 eclipse is a total misnomer.
In fact, depending on how you want to photograph the eclipse and what you want to do with your images, you can use just about any camera.
With that in mind, if you have a consumer-level DSLR like a Canon EOS Rebel T6i, use it. If you have a Sony A7R, use that. Even your smartphone can get the job done, though the quality of the image will not be the same.
How the eclipse is rendered in the frame will depend in large part on the focal length of the lens you use.
If you use a wide-angle lens, the sun will appear quite small. Conversely, a telephoto lens will allow you to fill the frame with the sun.
The question is, what focal length do you need?
As a rule of thumb, to get a reasonably large rendition of the sun in the frame, you’ll need at least 300mm of focal length.
Lenses of that length are quite spendy, though…
A good option is to rent a lens for the eclipse, that way you don’t drop a couple of thousand dollars on a lens you might or might not use again.
Outfits like Borrow Lenses or Lens Rentals have good selections of lenses for reasonable prices. Just don’t wait too much longer to reserve your lens, otherwise you might find they’re all rented out!
Protecting your lens (or your rented lens) and your camera from the intense rays of the sun is imperative.
To do so, you need a high-quality solar filter that will protect your gear without impacting your ability to get crisp, sharp photos of the event.
The Firecrest Eclipse Filters from Formatt-Hitech fit the bill beautifully, with coating and bonding technologies that maintain gorgeously neutral color rendition.
These filters are available from 18 stops to 24 stops as well, meaning you have all the light-stopping power you need.
What’s more, the Firecrest Eclipse Filters are designed to ensure accurate density, which means color transmission and sharpness are unaffected. They even have a built-in infrared cut and will also work as a great filter for long exposures.
In other words, with a Firecrest Eclipse Filter, you get the protection you need for your gear while enhancing the look and feel of the images you take. They’re available in various sizes from 37mm to 95mm to accommodate a wide range of lenses as well.
That’s not a bad deal if you ask me!
One of the most essential pieces of gear for photographing a total eclipse is a good, solid tripod, like the Sirui N-3204X shown above.
A tripod gives you camera the steady base it needs to get high-quality images (or videos) of the event.
Think about it – the eclipse will last a couple of minutes in the prime viewing areas, and you don’t want to handhold your camera for that long.
Besides, handholding your camera will most definitely result in camera shake, rendering your images a blurry mess.
In other words, approach photographing the 2017 eclipse like you would night photography. After all, for a couple of minutes, it’ll be dark as night anyway!
Another handy tool you’ll most definitely want is a camera remote.
Like a tripod, a camera remote gives you the ability to step away from your camera to avoid camera shake.
But you certainly want the ability to trigger the shutter, and a camera remote does that.
Why stop at firing the shutter, though, when you can get a remote that does so much more?
How about creating a timelapse video of the eclipse? Or a real-time video? Maybe a long exposure?
Pulse by Alpine Labs is a camera remote that can do all those things – and more.
Check and adjust camera settings, look at the histogram, and get image previews all on your smartphone.
Heck, you can control your camera via Bluetooth from up to 100 feet away, too.
That means you can set up your rig, find a place to sit down, and relax and enjoy the show while Pulse handles documenting the event!
With the major gear out of the way, let’s not forget all the other essentials you’ll need for your solar eclipse photography:
- Extra batteries
- Extra memory cards
- Gaffers tape (to seal off light leaks and just about anything else)
- Smartphone apps to determine the precise time the eclipse will occur in your location
- A good camera bag to carry your gear
And that’s not to mention all the stuff you need, too, like water, snacks, a comfy camp chair, and other creature comforts to make the 2017 eclipse a fun one.
Just remember, aside from all the gear you need, the planning stages of photographing the eclipse are even more important.
As I noted earlier, start planning your outing now, visit the shoot location ahead of time, figure out how you want to compose the shot, and practice taking the shot, too.
All that practice, time, and effort will pay off!