Sunday, 29 March 2015

March 2015 Total Solar Eclipse

It was a success for many, a dismal failure for others. Reports have been appearing in various locations - the SEML (Solar Eclipse Mailing List - a group in Yahoo), on FaceBook, and Eclipse-Chasers.Com

Here is a list of who saw the eclipse and their recorded observations.

Successes were seen on the frozen landscape of Svalbard in northern Norway while clouds frustrated chasers who had gone to more temperate Faroe Islands. In the air there were at least half a dozen eclipse flights and most reported success. Aircraft that took off in humid conditions did have some windows fog and ice over as has happened on past eclipse flights.

Modern cameras continue to produce improved eclipse images as well. Small portable Go Pro type cameras provided amazing video of the shadow crossing the sky and landscape while digital cameras take your breath away with details of the inner corona and prominences. The only issues reported were the extreme cold of Svalbard draining batteries and causing automatic focus devices to fail. This was to be somewhat expected given the weather conditions.

Next year things should be a lot easier as the eclipse occurs in the tropical areas when crossing land. (Once again, the majority of the eclipse path falls over the sea.) Click here for more details concerning TSE2016.

Clear sky!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Cold Eclipse Photography

Those going to the Faroe Islands or Svalbard to observe the TSE this March will face cold temperatures, even if the sky is clear and the Sun out (which we certainly hope is the case). Cold weather presents challenges not only for the person, but also for any photographic equipment dragged along.

Most consumer electronics are not built to operate in cold temperatures. Variable materials may contract at different sizes resulting in the system not operating. I have heard of battery failures, SD cards not connecting, automatic focus freezes, shutter lock ups, and so on. These problems can be exasperated by taking the equipment in and out of the warmth as variable humidity could cause fogging of lens or worse, freezing components.

If the humidity is low, as it is most of the time in the cold, then water vapor will probably not be a major problem. That said, freezing and thawing of the equipment can still cause issues, and some may be permanent such as cracking or loss of glue integrity.

This past winter was a good time to test your equipment in cold weather operations. Maybe you found a solution? Here are a couple I know of from various sources.

- Hand warmers. Chemical hand warmers work great, as hand warmers. When it is very cold, they don't work very well unless near the warmth of your body. Keeping a hand warmer in your inside pockets might work and provides a nice place to keep the battery warm. Batteries tend to drain quickly in the cold.

- Battery warmers. Batteries do not like cold weather but a well designed battery warmer will do the trick. I have battery heated socks that I've used in the past to wrap camera battery cells (and film back in the day). Having extra batteries, inside a warm place, for the warmer is a good idea.

- Have an extra battery. This is a good idea for any camera to be used for eclipse photography. And make sure it is fully charged the night before. Keep it in a warm place until needed.

I hope the sky is clear for everyone and that the equipment behaves flawlessly. Good luck to all!