How to photograph a total solar eclipse, according to experts

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Get one even seen Total solar eclipse It is rare. Photographer Stan Honda has three under his belt. His first experience happened on Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, in 2015 – what he saw was a unique sight and opportunity for anyone with a camera.

“At this latitude, the sun, even at noon, was only about 11 degrees above the horizon, which is very low,” Honda said. “So we didn't really have to look at the sky — we just kind of looked straight at the horizon to see the eclipse happen. And when it became total, it was against this amazing front of ice and snow, and it was two degrees Fahrenheit there. We were all pretty huddled together, but it was “A very beautiful sight. This has stayed with me.”

Next April 8 Total eclipse It will likely be one of the most photographed events of the year, with approx 32 million people In the United States alone they live in the path of totality — the corridor through which the Moon will completely cover the Sun — and another 150 million live within 200 miles of it.

From Mexico to Texas and then through a dozen US states before reaching Maine and ending over Canada, the route will be between 108 and 122 miles (174 and 196 km) wide, saving up to 4 1/2 minutes in the southern states.

Weather permitting, it's a great opportunity for photographers of any skill level. Whether you're working with a high-end DSLR or a smartphone, Honda – An experienced astrophotographer who, in addition to totality, has captured a large group of partial eclipses – has some tips on how to make the moment last through photos.

Stan Honda

Honda recommends using a sturdy tripod as well as a remote shutter release to capture images “without distortion or moving the camera too much.” This is the scene from the setup in Chile in 2019.

For the upcoming eclipse, Honda will be in Fredericksburg, Texas taking photos on behalf of the international news agency AFP.

“I was looking at weather maps and historically, the further south you go, the less chance of clouds. Texas is about as far south as you can go in the United States to see totality.” Fredericksburg is just west of Austin, so it's easy to get to to her. It seems to be a very popular option, and it looks like this area of ​​Texas is gearing up for very large crowds.

Honda said he usually plans two types of photos. One of them was captured using a wide-angle lens to capture the eclipse as well as the surrounding landscape. “For me, this is actually a better image, because it puts the eclipse somewhere, and it places it somewhere,” he said. “It also shows you where you were at that time.”

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The other type of photo he aims for involves the use of a telephoto lens and gives priority to the celestial event. “You've probably seen a lot of those shots, focusing only on the sun itself, and the sun is a big part of the image,” he said.

As part of his Pro setup, Honda will have a third camera with a wide-angle lens to try to get more landscapes, and a fourth camera around his neck, with a wide-angle zoom lens, to photograph people. around him and document their reactions.

But you don't need all of that.

“With any type of camera or any lens, you can get a good picture of the eclipse,” he said. “I would just recommend a fairly sturdy tripod, to make your setup fairly stable, and a remote shutter release, because that allows you to take photos without blurring or moving the camera too much.”

Eclipse moments to capture – and how to do it safely

Just as your eyes need protection during the partial phases of an eclipse—ISO 12312-2-compliant eclipse glasses or a portable solar viewer to view safely—your camera does, too.

Remember, it is not safe to look at the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, even when wearing protection over your eyes. This is because optical devices can focus solar rays, which may then lead to eye injury, according to the American “space” website. NASA.

“A safe solar filter is actually a necessity for partial phases, and the American Astronomical Society has done that Complete section “On their website about solar eclipse glasses and filters they approve them as safe to use,” Honda said.

The filter cuts out a large amount of light, and different filters produce different colors, depending on what they're made of, Honda said, adding that you should switch the exposure setting to manual mode.

“The automatic settings won't work with the filter on, because most of the frame will be black, so it will be like taking a photo at night,” he said. “Manual focus would be a big help too – you can autofocus on the sun, but then you have to disable autofocus so the camera doesn't try to stay focused through the filter. It's so dark that it will be fooled by the darkness and won't be able to focus.

Stan Honda

The “diamond ring” effect occurs before the Moon completely covers the Sun. Below is an example from the 2017 total solar eclipse, as photographed from Madras, Oregon.

At the beginning of the total period, you may be lucky to catch something called “Diamond ringThis is an effect that occurs before the moon completely covers the sun.

“It's this very bright part of the sun, just in one corner “It looks like a ring with a diamond on it, and it only lasts for a few seconds, maybe 10 or so,” Honda said.

Equally elusive Billy beadswhich may appear correctly where the moon and sun appear parallel.

“The moon is not perfectly smooth — there are mountains and craters and other formations — so it covers the sun, and some sunlight will stream through those formations and create spots of light along one edge,” Honda said. “Again, this lasts a few seconds before going into full macro mode, when you see the corona.”

During the eclipse, there may be an opportunity to see a Coronal mass ejection – A large, amazing column of material rises from the surface of the sun, weighing billions of tons, according to the American “space” website. NASA.

Once the moon covers the face of the sun, you will have to remove the filter from your camera; “Otherwise you wouldn't be able to see the sun's corona, which is actually the money shot,” Honda said.

“When you remove the filter, you'll have to increase the exposure by a fair amount, because the corona itself is fairly dim, almost as bright as the full moon, so compared to the brightness of the sun, that's a pretty big difference,” Honda said. “Keep your shutter speed and ISO consistent and just slow down your shutter speed, because that will give you more and more exposure as the shutter speed time increases, and you'll capture more and more corona in each frame.”

During a total eclipse, you can also look at the eclipse directly with the naked eye, but knowing when it's safe to take off your filters and glasses can be difficult. If you are in a group of people, this moment will likely be announced. Otherwise, you should be careful when the sun reaches a very thin crescent, Honda said.

Stan Honda

This composite image captures the phases of a total solar eclipse as it occurs in El Maule, Chile, in July 2019. Don't forget to make looking at the eclipse a priority right now, Honda said.

Of all the stages of a total solar eclipse, the moment of totality is a special moment and desired by most photographers. “It's also a very interesting shot, especially with the wide-angle lens,” Honda said. “Everyone wants that photo during a total eclipse, to show the sun's corona.”

Fortunately, you'll have plenty of time to film this stage in April as this event will last a total of at least two and a half minutes and upwards of four minutes, depending on your location. Once completed, the cycle will begin revealing the Billy Beads and Diamonds in reverse.

“When you get close to what's called third contact, when the moon is ready to move away from the face of the sun, you have to remember to reset the shutter speed back to the original setting — when you were shooting the partial phases before the macro — and turn the filter back on,” Honda said.

How many photos to take during the eclipse is up to you, but Honda recommends purchasing the largest memory card you can find.

“What I do is I'll set the remote to take a photo every minute as the eclipse progresses. While I'm moving to the Billy Beads and the diamond ring, I'll take a photo at least every second, maybe several times a second, because that only lasts for a very short time. And then during Total eclipse, I'll probably try to shoot as many as I can. So the idea is to try not to run out of space.

If you get a good exposure on your camera, Honda said you don't have to do much anymore in terms of image processing, but you should shoot in the “RAW” setting if you have the option, because it will give you the highest quality.

After each eclipse, he always creates a composite shot showing the sequence from beginning to end in one image.

If you want to get some practice in advance, you can simply apply your filter and take photos of the sun (without looking at it except through the camera): “This will help you determine the basic exposure setting for your camera or lens. You will be using it,” Honda said. You can shoot with a variety of exposures and see what looks good on your computer. On the day of the eclipse, you may have to adjust a little here and there, but you probably won't be too far off.

And if you only have a mobile phone? “I've used one on past eclipses, just with the automatic settings, and it seems to work really well,” Honda said. “Just leave it on the standard wide-angle setting – if you start zooming in on the sun to try to zoom in, it will throw off the auto exposure.”

Honda added that a wider shot with the phone may be less dramatic, but it will capture either the people or the landscape around you, and this may result in a better photo.

However, don't forget to make looking at the eclipse a priority. “Photography should be the secondary goal, because this is a truly amazing natural event that you may never see again,” he said. “So, if you're on the path to college, make sure you spend more time looking at it with your eyes than with the camera.”

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