Eclipse - what gear and how are you shooting?

Been getting ready for the solar eclipse, and am curious to hear how people are approaching their equipment setup and managing the dynamic light conditions?

I’ll be setting up my Sony A7IV on a Star Adventurer GTi for tracking, but am undecided between my Sigma 100-400 or using this rare event as “motivation” to pick up a Sony 200-600… Mainly aspiring to photograph earthshine and corona.

For those who have shot one recently, with enough practice is it practical to manage exposure settings by hand on the camera, or is an intervalometer or computer control the way to go?

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Hi @mikeofthenorth - great questions. I look forward to hearing what others have planned.

I was thinking that 100-400mm might be plenty for the total eclipse, given the corona extends a quite a way around the Sun (~2-3 solar diameters, maybe more, if you do special processing and have enough dynamic range captured)

Computer control feels like too much technology (and gear) for me - more things to potentially go wrong or be subject to user error.

Bracketing is important I think - I used seven stop bracketing in 2017 to try to ensure I caught as much as possible.

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I am planning on shooting with 2 cameras, both mounted to my ZWO AM3 EQ mount. Sony A7IV with Sony 100-400mm with a 1.4X (total = 560mm) for portrait work (Timelapse sequence, BBs, and super HDR of the corona during eclipse). The other camera will be the Sony A7S3 with the Sony 24-70 f/2.8 at 35mm to get the eclipsed sun with Venus, Jupiter, and maybe maybe maybe the comet.

I use an intervalometer to capture images every 10s or so for my time-lapse. I then do 9 shot brackets (1eV each) to capture the corona, beads, etc. Since 9 stops is not enough to capture all the corona detail, I have one 9 shot bracket saved to Memory 1 and another 9 shot bracket saved to Memory 2 so I can quickly shoot an 18 eV bracket during totality. This has been my technique for 2 eclipses now and it has worked well for me. YMMV.
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@whitacre.rick where did you go for TSE 2019? Great corona :+1:

That is the composite that I am really hoping to capture - awesome!

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Thanks! I was near Vicuna, Chile. Funky little kite surfing hostel called Hotel Puclaro. Worked out great! Hotel Puclaro — Kitesurf and Windsurf Resort

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Here is a GoPro video of the event. Pretty cool.

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Were you able to shoot it, Stephen?

Great shots Rick. I didn’t travel to see that one. I’m counting all the ones I’ve missed now with some regret! Very likely only one more hybrid in my lifetime…

Thanks, Stephen. I have already signed up for Egypt in 2027. It will likely be my last (but longest!)

My first eclipse, Sony A7R-IV, 70-200 GM or 100-600 G, also considering 1.4X or 2.0X teleconverters.

As this is my first eclipse I do not want to get overly distracted by the technology, I am sure there will be far more skilled photographers than me taking and posting great pictures.

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A lot of folks believe that the optimum focal length for an HDR portrait of the eclipsed Sun is between 500 and 600mm. The coronas extend out for 3-5 solar diameters in each direction (from memory - check that). You don’t want to cut them off if doing a deep HDR. I would opt for your 100-600 at 500-600mm. No extender with that lens. Just my $0.02. I’ve been wrong before…

I would agree with Rick Whitacre about being between 500 and 600 mm. Last time I was at 520 mm and didn’t crop much after adding the outer corona. This time I hope to catch more of it and fill the frame! I will also have an 800 mm set up on a separate camera to shoot closer detail as time allows.

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Based on experience, what are the best camera settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO value) for long focal lengths (500mm+)?
Do I need an ND filter and if so, what factor?

For any viewing or pictures of the full sun, including all times during the partial eclipse, you must have a solar filer. This is not just any ND filter, or even a strong one, but a filter made specifically for solar viewing and photography. You definitely need to get one on the way!

There are different types of solar filters that filter out different wavelengths, so you will need to experiment with whichever one you get. You will probably find that around 1/50 or 1/60, f/8, ISO 100 works during partial. Try it out with pictures of the sun before the eclipse.

During totality, from C2 to C3, you can take the filter off. Since you won’t have a chance to try this out ahead of time, plan on bracketing exposures. During the first 30 seconds of so after C2 and before C3, Baileys Beads and diamond ring effect will be showing and it will still be quite bright. One- or two-stop brackets around 1/4000, f/11, ISO 100 will be in the ballpark.

During the rest of totality things are pretty dim, but there is a great range between the different visible elements. You will still want to bracket extensively, especially if you want to capture prominences, inner corona and outer corona and combine them later. If your camera can do it, use 5- or 7-shot brackets, two stops apart. Try 1/125, f/11, ISO 400 as a starting center point, but be prepared to adjust up or down during totality depending on what you are getting.

Be ready to put the filter back on right after C3!

Dave

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Solar Eclipse Filter Material:

For years, I have shot 2 TSEs and 1 ASE with the Thousand Oaks Full Aperture (Solarlite Polymer) filters:

A friend mentioned that he felt that the glass filters from Agena Astro / Spectrum Telescope were superior:

I bought one of the glass filters from Agena and did a side by side comparison to my trusty Thousand Oaks film filter. The results were stunning. The focus did not shift between these shots.

Sony A7IV, Canon 400mm f/5.6 with 1.4X. ISO100, f/8. Shutter speed as indicated. The glass filter lets in a lot more light and is sharper and more contrasty. Your mileage may vary


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Thanks Dave, for the detailed answer. I ordered a solar filter from Haida today after taking a few test shots with an ND1000 filter. But the shutter speed of 1/32’000 second, aperture 16 at ISO 50 made me a bit suspicious… Nevertheless, the result is impressive (with Nikon Z9 and 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3)
Best regards
Michael

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@whitacre.rick, @Bohbrus - interesting results! Here are some more for comparison.

I just re-did some test shots with the three filter types I discussed on the webinar yesterday. Better results from the Thousand Oaks this time around, but Baader film is still sharper, I think.

All shots on Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-4.6 VR S at 400mm. I the same sharpening for each image in Lightroom, then adjusted curves, and added a small amount of dehaze and clarity. No colour correction applied in any of the images.

Thousand Oaks Full Aperture (Solarlite Polymer)


1/250 at f/8, ISO 500

“Star Guy”, Baader Film, 77mm threaded


1/250 at f/8, ISO 500

NiSi Solar Filter, ND1000000(5.0) 16.6 stops UV/IR Cut PRO Nano


1/8000 at f/8, ISO 500

The ThousandOaks and Baader appear to be ~5 stops darker than the NiSi.

Here’s a close-up of the large sunspot group at 400% for each filter (same order as above):

Thousand Oaks

Baader Film

NiSi

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Yes, ND 1000 is “only” 10 stops, where a true solar filter is typically 16.5 to 18 stops and is tuned to remove more UV and IR wavelengths. While the ND 1000 won’t result in instant damage, I would not recommend leaving the camera pointed at the sun for a an extended time with only that filter.

Dave

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I used a 10-stop variable ND to shoot a partial eclipse on a cloudy day in northern England - I think they’d be ok for those conditions, but I agree that extended shooting into the full sun with a long lens would not be advisable.

Partial Eclipse, March 20 2015 (The Photographer's Ephemeris - Web App)


1/125s at f/11, ISO 100, 270mm, Singh-Ray Variable ND (up to 10 stops - can’t recall what I had it set to)

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I have been experimenting with a Thousand Oaks 77 mm screw-in film filter and the same NiSi Pro Nano UV/IR Cut ND100000 glass filter than Stephen shows. I’m not sure, but this may be a similar comparison to Rick’s. Like Rick and Stephen, I have found that the glass filter is giving slightly better results, perhaps because if allow for more light. I am definitely able to pull more detail from the NiSI, though the difference is not great and either would be acceptable.

Here are a couple examples:

Thousand Oaks

NiSi

Tighter crop for detail:

Thousand Oaks

NiSi

I have also tried the folding paper DayStar filters that B&H sells, with results similar to the Thousand Oaks. I used one of those in 2017 and was happy with the results.

The NiSi give a white to slightly blue result when recorded and displayed in Daylight white balance, whereas the Thousand Oks is the usual orange. I adjusted the color of the NiSi in ACR to give a similar yellow-orange color by moving the Temperature slider to 50,000. For both of them I used Clarity, DeHaze, curves, contrast and various combinations of the “Light” sliders to bring out the granularity of the surface without making it too crunchy.

The Thousand Oaks exposure was 1/50, f/11 ISO 200, and the NiSI at 1/250, f/11, ISO 100, so about 3 1/3 stops different. I haven’t firmly decided which I will use, but I’m leaning strongly toward the NiSi, if for no other reason that the faster exposure with more light.

Dave

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