Capture the Eclipse

For many Americans, the 2017 Great Eclipse might be the only opportunity to see a partial or total solar eclipse — and many will want to document the moment.

But before you set up your tripod (or pull out your iPhone), be sure that you're ready for the special challenges that come with photographing the sun!

Pacific University Professor Jim Flory, who leads the school's photography minor, offers some guidance from his own knowledge and others' expertise for protecting your eyes and your gear when photographing the eclipse.

Protect Your Eyes

Never look directly into your camera lens when photographing the sun. Always use a sideviewer.

Looking into your camera while wearing special sunglasses can actually accentuate your eye exposure to the sun when a filter cover is used with the camera.

Get A Filter

Camera lenses need special filters to protect their imaging sensors every bit as much as we need special sunglasses to protect our eyes.

Even the most advanced equipment is no match for the sun’s powerful rays. Just 1 percent of the unfiltered sun is still too much for both eyes and equipment to absorb without causing irreversible damage.

Always ensure that your lens is protected whenever you take photography of the sun, including the partial solar eclipse, which is what most people in both Oregon and the rest of the country will see. Only during the two to three minute totality phase of the eclipse (when the moon covers all but the exterior edges of the sun) can the protective solar filters be removed.

Pro Tip: Solar filters for cameras are available as Full-Aperture and Off-Axis coverings. Sheets of Acetate Filter also suffice as long as it completely covers the lens for using the camera to photograph the sun at any time other than during the totality phase of the solar eclipse.

Remove the Filter — and Glasses — Only During Totality

During the total eclipse: all solar filters must be removed from the camera to capture the sun’s corona.

“Just as viewers will want to remove their sunglasses during this 2 to 3 minute total eclipse period, will photographers want to remove their camera’s solar filters as well,” Flory says. “As soon as the sun begins to appear, the filters must once again be used just as the glasses need to be.”

Pro Tip: For those wishing to capture the sun’s corona during the total eclipse, full-frame sensor cameras should be used at a focal length of 1400 mm, while DX sensor cameras should be framed at 900 mm or less.

Practice Makes Perfect

You'll only get one chance to photograph the eclipse, so make sure you know your gear.

Practice taking photographs of the sun on clear days in advance of Aug. 21. Shoot the sun (with your filter) during mid-day with a shutter speed of 1/4000 second to 1/30 second.

This includes rehearsing camera setup and adjustment of exposure shutter speed.

The size of your image (how large you want to sun to be in the frame) determines what focal length lens to use. For full-frame imaging sensor, Flory recommends 2000 mm or less. For a DX sensor, maximum length is about 1300.

We Want to See

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More Eclipse Resources from Pacific University