It’s here! August 21, 2017 – The Solar Eclipse!
On Monday, August 21, 2017 a solar eclipse will be visible in North America – and depending on where you are and weather permitting, a total solar eclipse can be seen. The last solar eclipse to cross the U.S. coast-to-coast was in 1918! If you miss it, you’ll have to wait until 2024 for another chance; that is unless you want to travel around the world to chase the next one. Learn more about the eclipse here! Enter your zip code to see how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to see where you are!
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun in its orbit. A shadow is cast on the surface of the Earth and day turns to night for several minutes when the sun, moon, and the Earth are aligned.
There’s a 65 mile zone that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina where you can catch the total eclipse. If you live near Denver, you’re less than 300 miles from two total eclipse viewing spots! If you’re in Northern California and up for a little longer trip, head up to Madras Oregon. If you cannot travel, you’ll still get to see a pretty spectacular partial eclipse.
The eclipse will happen Monday, August 21, 2017 just before noon.
Experience a total solar eclipse within the viewing area indicated in the above grey zone. A partial eclipse will be viewable across North America, weather permitting of course.
If you plan to photograph the eclipse, you’ll have to use an extreme neutral density filter. We have two sizes and step rings to accommodate nearly any lens you may have (unfortunately at this time we have SOLD OUT!). Use this to not only protect your eyes, but to also capture discernible details that would be missed without the filter. See the additional tips below for alternative photo capturing techniques!
Even if 99% of the sun is covered by the moon, the remaining 1% crescent is dangerous to view with the naked eye and can cause serious eye damage or blindness. Make sure to use a solar filter and appropriate protective eyewear designed for viewing a solar eclipse!
If you’re photographing the eclipse when it is not in totality, you must utilize a solar filter on the end of the lens or use a telescope specifically designed for viewing solar eclipses, or else you could harm the camera’s image sensor!
A couple guidelines to know for using digital cameras:
- The longer the focal length of the lens, the larger the images of the sun you’ll be able to make. (For a DSLR camera with a full frame FX sensor, choose a focal length of 2000mm or less. For a DSLR camera that has a DX sensor, the maximum focal length is about 1300mm; any longer and you won’t be able to get the entire sun in the frame).
- If you’re using a COOLPIX compact digital camera, turn the built-in flash to OFF when photographing the eclipse.
- To increase the focal length with a DSLR, you can also combine a super telephoto lens with a teleconverter.
- To determine exposure, run a calibration test on the un-eclipsed sun on a clear-sky day prior to the eclipse.
- Shoot the mid-day sun at a fixed aperture, (choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16) using every shutter speed from 1/4000 second to 1/30 second. Looking at the exposures, choose the best shutter speed/aperture combination and use them to photograph the partial phases of the solar eclipse.
- The sun’s brightness stays the same throughout the partial phases and therefore no exposure compensation is needed. You may also decide to bracket your exposures to ensure that you photograph the solar eclipse with a perfect exposure. If you ran your test on a sunny day and the eclipse occurs on a hazy day, simply increase the bracket of exposures an additional f/stop.
Click here for Mr. Eclipse’s Solar Eclipse Exposure Guide. This guide is extremely helpful in providing suggestions for exposure values at each stage of the solar eclipse. Whichever exposure values you choose, bracket by one or two f/stops to make the best possible image. Hint: Use the RAW format if your camera has this option – it allows greater flexibility in adjusting the exposure when processing your images after the eclipse!
- Either buy a solar filter or modify your eclipse glasses to function as a solar filter for your smartphone. Cut your glasses in half and tape one eyepiece over your smartphone camera lens. (Make sure you purchase solar eclipse filters and glasses from reputable manufacturers. There have been reports that some companies are selling counterfeit products labeled as if they conform to international safety standards. The American Astronomical Society has listed on its website companies whose products are known to conform to international standards).
- Use a remote trigger. With a remote, you can adjust settings and shoot the photo while keeping your camera stable.
- Use a tripod to keep your camera stable.
- Practice. Take photos just after sunset during twilight to get an idea of what the light levels will be like during totality.
- Shoot photos of the moon to learn how to manually adjust the focus on your camera. Tap the screen and hold your finger on the image of the moon to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.
- A telephoto lens system is a must-have for eclipse photography with a smartphone. Use zoom lenses for smartphones designed solely to provide magnification without resorting to digital zoom.
- Try the pinhole effect. This eclipse effect is easily captured with point-and-shoot cameras. Use a straw hat or a kitchen sieve and allow the sun’s shadow to fall on a piece of white cardboard placed several feet away. The small holes act like pinhole cameras and each one projects its own image of the eclipsed sun.
Capturing The Totality Phase of a Solar Eclipse
Certainly the most spectacular phase of the solar eclipse is totality. Totality is when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. For a few brief seconds or minutes, the sun’s pearly white corona, red prominences, and chromosphere are visible to capture! The path of totality for this eclipse stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Unless you’re in the path of totality, keep your solar eclipse glasses on throughout the eclipse.
During the total phase, all solar filters should be removed. This is due to the sun’s corona having a surface brightness a million times fainter than the sun’s visible disk or photosphere, so photographs of the corona must be made without a filter. Furthermore, it is completely safe to view the totally eclipsed sun directly with the naked eye. No filters are needed, and in fact, they would completely hide the view.
Click here to watch NASA’s live video coverage of the eclipse
For more information and interesting videos about the solar eclipse, click here.