Get your cameras ready; the final eclipse of 2014 occurs tomorrow, Thursday October 23rd. Unlike the Blood Moons as of late, this will be a partial solar eclipse where the Moon takes a ‘bite’ out of the Sun. The Central and Western parts of the United States with have the best view with the maximum eclipse happening just before or during sunset. While it’s never a good idea to look at the sun directly, here are 5 tips to safely capture this rare event.
1. Safety First: Use a Solar Filter
The Sun, if you haven’t realized by now, is incredibly bright. Looking at it through the viewfinder of your DSLR can cause permanent retinal damage or permanent sensor damage if no protection is used. To keep your eyes and equipment safe, use a heavy-duty ND filter of up to 18 stops or higher. In a pinch, a piece of No. 14 welder’s glass can be found at your local hardware store; it has the equivalent of about 18 ½ stops, but will leave a green cast on your images.
2. Bigger is Better: A Telephoto Lens is a Must
At around 93 million miles away, the Sun is pretty far from us. Anything less than 500mm will render the Sun as a small orb in the sky. For best results, you should use a lens that is 1000mm or longer. If you are like me and don’t have access to anything longer than 200mm there are adapters that can attach a DSLR or a telescope, just make sure to get the appropriate filter for that lens.
3. The Power is In Your Hands: Manual Focus For Greater Accuracy
Autofocus is like that bad/one friend of yours, when you depend on it the most, it lets you down. Instead of waiting for disappointment, switch your lens to manual mode and prefocus on the composition that you desire. The Sun will be darker through the lens of the ND filter or welding glass and therefore harder to focus, so pre-focusing or zone focusing will yield more keepers.
4. Pedal to the Metal: Speed is Key
Shooting fast is essential to capture the eclipse. Unlike a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse will last around 45 minutes, but the Sun will not be stationary for all of this. Usually shooting at 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second is sufficient in stopping the Sun in the sky.
5. Steady as She Goes: Use a Tripod
When shooting with a long lens at 1000mm or more, there will be some definite camera shake. Make sure you find a level surface and lock down your gear; you don’t want your solar eclipse turning into a stellar error. If your tripod is not up to pa,r we really like MeFoto Tripods if you need an upgrade.