We live in an age where merely experiencing is not enough; there is this desire to document things just so one could remember. Photographs have long been sources of bringing back fond memories, but how to you make sure there are great pictures of that time you witnessed a total solar eclipse, like the one about to take place on August 21?
As you are probably aware, starting directly into the sun is never a good idea because doing so can lead to irreversible eye damage. For your protection, make sure to bring along eclipse glasses (or make sure your kids or other companions have one), not sunglasses. You may have been told that dark sunglasses will do just fine but the truth is that they don’t protect you enough. Although it’s under a month until the event, you can still find eclipse glasses but you have to hurry as stocks are surely running out as the event date nears.
Since you are also taking pictures of the eclipse, you need to fit your camera with a solar filter. The eclipse glasses protect your eyes but they are meant for when you look at the sun not use with a camera to take a photograph. So make sure you have a solar filter that is tested and ready to go on August 21.
Now for the slightly bad news: only 14 states across the continental U.S. will get to witness this once in a lifetime event – the last one took place in 1918. It will start at 10:15am (PDT) off the coast of Oregon and end around 2:50pm (EDT) in South Carolina.
Here are the 14 states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The town of Salem, Oregon will be one of the first to witness the event and Charleston in South Carolina will be one of the last. Heading to Kansas City, Nashville, or St Louis offers the best chances of seeing the sun totally covered.
While other places (Canada, Central America, Mexico, and Caribbean islands) in the world can experience the event, theirs will only be a partial eclipse. The eclipse will also be visible from beginning to end in Ireland, Iceland, and Scotland.
Taking a photo
Equipment matters and your best bet for getting good shots are a DSLR or mirrorless camera paired with a telephoto lens (a minimum focal length of 600mm will work). Since you’re dealing with a long-range lens here, bringing your trusted tripod helps keep everything in focus.
If you are in an area where a total eclipse is guaranteed, you might want to take photographs at different stages of the eclipse. It’s best to shoot in RAW and it helps to bracket your shots. If you have a full-frame sensor, set the ISO to 800 or even higher. Aperture should be at its largest while shutter speed should be around 500th to 1000th of a second, maybe more.
You can remove the filter from the lens once the sun is totally covered as you will need to let in as much light as possible now that you’re covered in darkness. Make sure you get a shot of the corona (the luminous ring that will surround the sun) and these settings might help: start at ISO 100, set aperture to f/8, and go for a shutter speed between 1/2000 of a second to 2 seconds. You can also change shutter speed by several stops in case you want to create an interesting HDR image.
While these tips can help you take photographs of the August 21 solar eclipse, everything still relies on having clear skies during the event.