Approximately every 18 months, the moon passes between the sun and Earth, resulting in a total solar eclipse where the sun’s face is entirely hidden. It is a unique celestial event where the moon aligns between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on the planet’s surface.
Observers who use proper safety equipment can potentially witness the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona or ‘ring of fire.’ This presents an exciting opportunity for solar observers, as the corona is typically obscured by the sun’s bright face.
Some general tips for eclipse viewing are never to look directly at the sun when any part of its bright face is still visible. Whether in the line of totality or outside, only look at the sun with proper solar filters during the eclipse’s partial phases. Also, don’t use sunglasses; instead, use eclipse glasses, handheld viewers or pinhole projection. These methods reduce sunlight to a safe level to not damage your eyes. According to NASA, you need to look for glasses certified with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.
Photographing an Eclipse
To help you capture this unforgettable moment, we’ve gathered some tips and tricks from Irish photographer Adrian van der Lee.
1. VERY IMPORTANT: Never look directly at the sun and never look through the viewfinder when the camera is pointed at the sun.
2. When composing and focusing, always use a solar filter on your lens to prevent damaging your eyes and the camera’s sensor; only remove it during totality.
3. Shoot in RAW – you will have more flexibility in post-processing.
4. Use a sturdy tripod and a remote shutter release mechanism. This will help to minimise camera shake, especially during the long exposures required for capturing the eclipse. Turn off Image Stabilisation or Vibration Reduction.
5. Set your camera to manual and use the lowest possible ISO setting and an aperture of f/5.6-f/8.0.
6. The lens choice will depend on the composition you want – wider lens = smaller sun, longer lens = bigger sun.
7. When your camera is focused, you can turn the auto-focus off, as you won’t need to change focus during the eclipse.
8. Experiment with different exposures: Solar eclipses occur in various lighting conditions, and it’s important to experiment with different exposures to find the best settings for your camera. Bracketing your shots and using manual mode can help you achieve optimal exposure levels.
9. The amount of sun blocked by the moon will vary during the eclipse, so your shutter speed will need to be adjusted as the eclipse progresses. During a total eclipse, you will effectively be shooting night photography, which will need a slower shutter speed.
10. Finally, many photographers get the photo but miss the experience. Solar eclipses are special events. Take time to enjoy them. For total eclipses, totality will last at least a couple of minutes. Photograph for a minute or two, then stop and enjoy the show.
In summary, photographing a solar eclipse is an exciting and rewarding experience. With the right equipment and preparation, you can capture stunning images of this rare phenomenon. Remember to always prioritise your safety and use the proper protective equipment.