Photographing the Total Solar Eclipse, With and Without Solar Filters
Tomorrow I will be photographing the Total Solar Eclipse above the Tetons in Wyoming on the Idaho side with a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons.
Here’s how I am doing it with 2 different camera setups.
I am using my Sony a7R with a Canon 17-40mm f4 lens set at 28mm or 24mm – still deciding on the exact shot I want with this. I will be using a Formatt-Hitech 16-stop solid neutral density filter.
This is definitely NOT a filter recommended for photographing the sun as it doesn’t have any proper solar viewing certificates!
But many photographers have been asking me if solid density filters like this are OK for the eclipse.
Here’s the deal – if you do decide to use one it is at your own risk. You could potentially fry your camera sensor and worse you could potentially do permanent damage to your eyes.
If you decide to take such risks you are on your own. I am not recommending the following tips but rather telling you how I am photographing with these filters while assuming my own risk.
So here is how I am using this filter. I ran tests this morning while photographing the sun and did no damage to my eyes nor my camera.
For starters I have a mirrorless camera. This saves my eyes, as when I am looking through the viewfinder I am only looking at an LCD screen.
If you don’t have a mirrorless camera DO NOT LOOK at the sun through the viewfinder or you could ruin your eyes even with this filter on. Instead use live-view and only for short periods of time.
Next I was concerned with the lens being pointed at the sun for a few hours. Even with the camera turned off, my sensor is still exposed.
To protect my sensor in-between shots during the length of the eclipse I cut a piece of cardboard to cover my filter and used tape to allow me to flip the cardboard up to take a photo and back down to protect the sensor during the eclipse. It may not look pretty but it sure is effective!
For this I am using my Sony a7 on a Sigma 150-600mm lens.
And with this setup I am definitely using the proper solar filter. I got it the other week from Bozeman Camera for $80 and it fits over my lens hood.
I had to make some modifications for my setup.
First I noticed the lens hood has holes at the base that were letting in light under certain circumstances so I taped those up.
Next, because my filter is made of a flimsy and delicate film I wanted to protect it better from rubbing or puncture. I used some foam core and tape to protect the front surface when the filter is transported in the cardboard box that it came with. This keeps the filter from direct contact twith he top of the box.
My camera settings with this setup photographing the sun are are ISO 100 at 1/500s at f8.
Other Things To Consider
Here are some other tips for getting the perfect shot!
- Practice with your gear to be 100% familiar with what you will be doing during the eclipse
- If you are in an area of 100% totality, when – and only when – it is at 100% totality it will be safe to look at the eclipse. Take your filters off at this time and bracket your exposures. The moment 100% ends back to the filters.
- In regards to bracketing set your camera to 1-stop increments instead of 1/3rd which most photographers use. You only have at most just over 2 minutes of totality and it will be quicker adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops when dials are set for 1-stop. During totality do extreme bracketing with up to 10 brackets at 1-stop each
- When photographing the sun rely more on the flashing blinkies than the histogram to judge exposure. Adjust your exposure until they disappear. If you are still seeing them you are over-exposing your shot.
- Look for other photos during totality such as the crowds and look away from your camera every once in a while to fully experience it. This will be my first total eclipse and I will definitely need to remind myself of this tip.
I hope these last minute tips help out! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the moment!!