Sunday, 26 February 2017

Eclipse 2017 - To Photograph or Not (Part 2)

In my previous blog entry I gave reasons NOT to photograph the total solar eclipse coming in August 2017. Now I want to clarify a few things starting with my answer to the question of whether or not to photograph the eclipse - just go ahead and do it.

My first total solar eclipse took place when I was a teenager. I was (and still am) an amateur astronomer. So as not to miss anything I came prepared. Telescope, binoculars, camera with zoom lens, extra film, tripod, cable release, thermometer, and hours of lunar photography practice under my belt.
About to loose my eclipse virginity in 1972.
I thought I could handle it, you know, teenage optimism. My plan was to watch 2nd contact, do a few pictures, scope out the view with binoculars, some more pictures, temperature reading, telescope views, pictures of 3rd contact. I had practiced in my back yard and it was easy to fit all that inside of two minutes. I figured the only difference was that it was to be on board a ship.

Of course, that is not how it went. The moving ship presented its own challenge. The view moved in and out of the telescope eyepiece. It did not stay centered in the camera. Add in the excitement of the total solar eclipse and the whole thing was overwhelming.

Eclipse 1972 - 210mm Pentax, 200 ASA Color film (Kodak)
I did follow some very good advice and not try to photograph second contact. Instead I watched it directly and looked through my telescope as the chromosphere slipped behind the lunar disk. It was spell binding! The coronal details, the prominences, and it was happening all too fast. 

After gazing at the eclipse in the telescope I snapped a few pictures with my 210mm camera lens set up on a tripod. A few, hah, I finished the roll in seconds! Modifying the exposure every time I took picture after picture and was dismayed not to have any film left as third contact took place.

Many of the pictures did not come out good. The trick was to time the picture at the top or bottom of the "wave" as the ship rolled and pitched in the sea. That was anticipated but did I think about that? No.

I watched a bit of third contact through the telescope catching the chromosphere emerging from behind the lunar limb. It is an amazing view!

All in all, I did not have time for my binoculars. The temperature reading was forgotten. Looking through the telescope was awesome enough, that is a view I will never forget. Two minutes of totality is just not enough. You don't have enough time to get to all the toys.

So, after hearing how splendid a total solar eclipse, why did I even try to photograph it? Well, you know, it was a total solar eclipse! I could not help myself. I had photographed the Moon, planets, star clusters, constellations, nebula, galaxies, and there was no way I was not going to try and photograph a total solar eclipse.

Do not use your flash! Silhouettes against the eclipse sky are great!

Are you going to photograph the eclipse? If so, I totally get it. Have fun! And do practice on the Moon in the coming months. Catch the Moon at all phases. That way you will be ready for the New Moon Phase on August 21st 2017!

For some more tips, visit my web page Top Ten Rules of eclipse photography.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Eclipse 2017 - To Photograph or Not?

Do you want to photograph the eclipse this summer?

In my opinion, if you are asking this question, then don't. Put the camera aside, look through binoculars, maybe even a small telescope, check out the panorama, look and listen - you'll love it!

But if you really want to photograph the eclipse, check out my basic instructions at - they cover the essential information you will want.

Thanks to the Internet you will find plenty of great images to show others. Once you see the eclipse, you will appreciate some of the pictures even more.

You just can't take an image and capture it all. 

Solar Eclipse Totality is surreal. When a total solar eclipse is taking place and you are in the shadow, you have stepped into a new universe where the Sun is shining but not shining. Replaced by a very dark disk, an eerie shine of electric hair surrounds the disk, it looks like an eyeball staring right back at you. Everything is plunged into a strange darkness. A faint amount of light, like the full moon shines from the now dark Sun. The horizons are brighter than overhead with sunset (or sunrise) colors on some.

And you really think you can capture all that metaphoric nonsense with your camera? Professionals try and only catch a bit of it. A single metaphor, at best, at a time. So sit back and enjoy the show.

The very act of taking the image changes the situation.

Taking a picture of something as grand as a total solar eclipse adds a whole new dimension to the problem. You become involved in something that is detracting you from watching the eclipse take place. You will miss out on details, cool stuff, and so on. And of course, you might want to photograph yourself doing all that (a wide angle video showing the eclipse and yourself can be fun, just watch what you say).

Get pictures of people before and after totality.

The most memorable pictures will be those of people right before and after the eclipse takes place. Don't take any pictures during totality unless you MAKE CERTAIN YOUR FLASH IS OFF.

People pictures are highly favored since most eclipse photographers don't have any pictures of themselves. They will be anxious for a trade with you.

Do not miss the eclipse!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Eclipse 2017 Hotels, Motels, Campsites, and so on

Have you found a place to view the solar eclipse in August this year? You want to be along the narrow path of totality, nothing else compares if you have a clear view of the event.

The eclipse is under six months away, the hotels are filled up (well, most of them are) and now it is going to be tricky to find a place. Here are a couple tips.

Look to the biggest cities
There are several very large cities along the path with sections inside the path. See the maps for details - Kansas City, St Louis, Nashville, Columbia, Charleston. Many of these cities will have vacancies open up as the eclipse gets closer and reservations are cancelled. You see, it is not uncommon for eclipse chasers to reserve several hotels for the same night along the path and then cancel out due to favorable weather or offers from other locations.

Ask about long lost relatives
Do you know people along the eclipse path. Take a closer look at that map and see if maybe a distant cousin or uncle may live in or near the zone of totality. Maybe they know of a place to stay or will allow you to couch surf their place (spend the night). The nearer to the path of totality the better since you don't want to get caught up in traffic jams on eclipse morning.

Think again about random camping
Camping sites are going amongst the most difficult to find. Even reserved sites could encounter problems so have a back up plan of a place to stay. Those with camping vehicles may have more options since large parking lot areas can be used with the permission of the owner. That said, I know there are several already taking reservations and charging for the option.

Good luck! Hope to see you under the shadow!