Photographing The Eclipse

So on Friday morning (20th March 2015) at around 8:30am we are due a partial eclipse. Depending on where you are located in the UK will depend what percentage the eclipse will be but somewhere between 83% and 94% is predicted for the country. The further south you are, the less the percentage will be. It will be a total eclipse of the Sun and Moon in Norway so much of Scotland will be over 90%.

So I've been asked over the last few weeks how to go about photographing such a rare event. the last one was in 1999 and from memory, everyone got very excited about it and spent a long time talking about it and then it was the cloudiest day ever with heavy rain so the event was pardon the pun, a wash out! SO here is hoping for some better luck this time.

In order to photograph the sun successfully you'll need a Solar Filter. You can buy them from Amazon and prices start at around £15. However, if you'd like to try and photograph it but you don't have time to get one, I've been looking at a couple of DIY options. I must say at this point, try these at your own risk. There is no reason that I can see why they won't work and they should't wreck your sensor but there is always a chance. The first option that seems to be the most popular is to just buy an emergency foil blanket. You can buy them from Outdoors shops, DIY stores or Halfords for just a few pounds. Simply wrap it twice over the front of your lens and put an elastic band around it and you are good to go. Another method that some people have tried is using a A blank cd has also been used but they're not as effective as the emergency foil blankets. If you look through them and hold them up to a bulb you'll see through them just about. I've seen examples where people use an empty round small ice cream container covered in gaffer tape but these are a little overkill I think.

 NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH YOUR VIEWFINDER

So now you have figured out what you need, you need to remember a few basics before you try this. First off DO NOT EVER look through your viewfinder at the sun. It may well blind you! If your camera has live view then just use this. 

1. If you are aiming to shoot just the eclipse as your subject then use a telephoto / Zoom Lens. At least 200mm which will be around 300mm on a cropped camera. 

2. Look through your viewfinder at a stationery subject in the distance at least 50 + metres away.

3. Set your camera to manual focus on the lens and the camera body or in the settings. 

4. Turn your lens focussing barrel all the way around either clockwise or anti clockwise until the subject in the distance is in focus. Infinity focus is usually just back a little bit.

5. Now your focus is ready, make sure your camera is set to fully manual. 

6. Adjust your aperture to the smallest aperture. That is the largest F number (around F22) This makes sure that the smallest amount of light possible hits the sensor. 

7. Turn the ISO down all the way. You'll have either 100 or 50 ISO as your minimum. Again, this in effect makes less light fall on the sensor.

8. Now adjust your speed accordingly. Try starting out with a 1/4000th exposure. 

9. Now either attach your solar filter and then wrap the emergency foil twice around your lens and secure it with tape or an elastic band. make sure you don't knock your focus ring. 

10. Aim your camera on a tripod towards the sun and line it up with live view. It is a fairly good idea to lock your mirror up too if you know how to do it. It will be in the menu settings. 

11. Now place a little black tape or masking tape over your viewfinder just so you don't look in to it. 

12. Switch live view on and you are now good to go. Experiment with exposures. Ignore pretty much what your live view shows apart from the framing. Check the images afterwards and use your histogram where applicable to check that large portions are not thrown out. 

First location to see partial eclipse begin Mar 20 at 7:41 AM  
First location to see full Eclipse begin Mar 20 at 9:09 AM  
Maximum Eclipse Mar 20 at 9:45 AM  
Last location to see full Eclipse end Mar 20 at 10:22 AM  
Last location to see partial Eclipse end Mar 20 at 11:50 AM  

The latest information I have is that the eclipse should start in the middle of England around 8am and end around 9:30am. 

Should you get the bug for this and you would like to learn the art of shooting Star Trails and making time lapse videos then our on line 'Shooting Stars' video workshop make s great starting point.