Getting Ready for the Solar Eclipse

August 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


Melissa Southern




In case any of you have not heard, on Monday, August 21, 2017, we will experience the Great American Solar Eclipse. All states in the continental US will experience at least some part of the solar eclipse. People from Oregon all the way to South Carolina will experience a total solar eclipse. Solar eclipses occur about every 18 months somewhere on the planet. The path of totality creates a thin arc across the surface of the earth. Now, being that most of the planet is covered in water, solar eclipses are usually over the ocean. The arc of a solar eclipse has not crossed North America from coast to coast in 100 years, making this event special.


Now, I am not going to pretend to know anything about photographing a solar eclipse. I have never done this before. The photo above is a Photoshop fake that I made using a photo of the sun I took over the weekend and a black circle placed in front of it to simulate the eclipse. I have been researching for months and still don't know exactly where I am going to be or how I am going to attempt this. I have ideas and notes and a folder full of articles and maps that I have printed, giving me guidelines for what to do. I have a checklist of what to bring, which keeps getting longer and longer. I am putting together a bag of necessary accessories for this little endeavor. In other words, I am prepping big time. 


IMG_20170802_103130721IMG_20170802_103130721 has some great information about how to photograph a solar eclipse, and it's from someone who has done this before. Nikon, Canon, B&H Photo Video, and many other photography-oriented sites have articles loaded with guidelines, tips, techniques, checklists, etc. If you are set on photographing the eclipse, do your homework.

  • SAFETY FIRST: Get appropriate eye and camera protection. Don't blind yourself or destroy your camera. Here are some tips and information from NASA.
  • Find a good location.
  • Get permission to be in that location. You may have a hard time finding lodging anywhere in the path of totality, unless you have friends or family that will let you crash on their couch. I am lucky and have both!
  • Read all those articles and compile the information for yourself.
  • Experiment with solar filters and camera settings before the big day.
  • Make an equipment list
  • Figure out what you are going to bring and how you are going to set it up and operate it
  • Be realistic with your set ups.
  • Most of all, take time to simply enjoy the miracle of the eclipse. Right now, we experience totality because the sun and moon appear to be the same size in the sky. As the moon gets farther from earth (yes, it is, by about 3.8 cm every year), totality as we see it now will be no more . . . . eventually!

When totality occurs, take your eyes away from the camera and remove the solar glasses, which is safe to do only during totality and only in the path of totality. Look at the raw beauty of the solar eclipse. Be in awe at the mystery and power and intensity of nature. Don't miss that experience fiddling with a camera. Often, the experience is so much more important than capturing it. Totality lasts less than 3 minutes. Experience those 3 minutes to the max. Take photos, and lots of them, but enjoy it with the naked eye as well.


If you are not going to the path of totality, enjoy the eclipse for what it is wherever you are. It is still a magical experience. I remember distinctly using two sheets of paper to observe a partial solar eclipse when I was a child. I do not know which one it was or where I was, but I remember those 2 sheets of paper and seeing the "bite" the moon was taking out of the sun. For instructions on this method of viewing the eclipse, click here.


I may really screw this up and come home with nothing more than memories and lessons learned, which I will of course apply to the next solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. You can find information about that eclipse here.


Whatever you do, I hope you at least get to see some of this amazing event. I will post some photos, if I don't totally screw it up, as soon as possible. Happy, and safe, shooting!




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