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How to Photograph the Total Solar Eclipse

Wichita, along with large portions of Kansas and the United States will get to experience a total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017. As a younger girl, I had the privilege of watching a Total Solar Eclipse while studying in the Philippines. I remember walking to the courtyard of the school where we were given a thin piece of plastic and told that we needed to have that over our eyes. That our eyes could be damaged if we didn’t use it to watch the eclipse. It was an amazing experience watching the moon cover the sun. Everything went dark for a few minutes right in the middle of the day. Not to mention that it was a great reason to get out of class! Now as an adult, I am excited at the possibility of capturing such a phenomenon.

Viewing the Eclipse

Viewing the Eclipse

Photo Credit Steven Williams

On Monday, Aug. 21, during the eclipse, Wichita will be in the area where the viewing will be about 90 percent, which means that we may not be able to fully witness 100% Totality, (when the sun is fully covered by the moon, which will last roughly two and a half minutes). Nevertheless, we will still be able to watch it!

According to Kris and Brent with the Kansas Astronomical Observers, the eclipse will last from 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., with the best viewing time after 1 p.m.

If you are not able to get out of the city to view the eclipse all you have to do is step outside to watch this amazing phenomenon. They strongly advise that you use some sort of solar filter such like the eclipse glasses being sold around town (I've seen them at Beautiful Day Cafe and Lowe's) as there will be no safe time to view it with the naked eye. Without a solar filter, you risk damaging your eyes. You will also need a solar filter if you plan to photograph the Total Solar Eclipse as you can damage the lens on your smart phone or camera, as well. Search online for a solar filter that works with your camera. There are even sites that tell you how to make one yourself.

Here are a few tips that I have gathered for you if you plan to photograph it. The important thing is to have fun and enjoy this rare experience. Happy shooting! 

Using Your Smartphone

 Using Your Smartphone

Do you need a DSLR to photograph the eclipse? Although a DSLR will help to better capture the eclipse, you can certainly use your smart phone! Keep in mind, however, you will need to use a solar filter to cover the lens on your smart phone before and after "Totality" (when the sun is fully covered by the moon, which will last roughly two and a half minutes).

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for safe and smart shooting:

  1. Choose a location that has a clear view with no obstructions
  2. Set your smart phone on a tripod (stabilization is important to avoid shaking)
  3. Cover the lens on your smart phone with a filter, you can use solar eclipse glasses
  4. Make sure you are wearing your solar eclipse glasses yourself!
  5. You may want to adjust the focus on your smart phone so tap on the screen and hold your finger to set your focus on the sun, slide your finger up or down to lighten or darken the exposure
  6. Set your smartphone to time-lapse or consider setting a 5-second delay to allow your smart phone to adjust before taking the shot
  7. If you want to zoom in on the eclipse, I would not suggest using the zoom feature built in, as it is not designed to clearly magnify an image. You may want to look into purchasing a zoom lens attachment prior to the eclipse and practice with photographing the moon, at night, in an area that doesn’t have much light pollution.

During Totality, there is no need to have your filter or Eclipse glasses on, put them where you can easily get to them because you will need afterward (due to our location, we may not experience 100% Totality).

Another option to photographing the eclipse itself is to create more artistic compositions with your smart phonelike photographing people around you who are photographing the eclipse! Capture their expression with the eclipse in the background. You can also consider photographing the shadow of the moon as it moves in front of the sun. This would be more successful in a north western horizon in a clear field or over the lake. You can also consider shooting some video and recording the “ooooo” and “ahhhhhs” as we experience Totality. Whichever you choose to do, please remember to turn off the flash!

Using Your DSLR

Using Your DSLR

Capturing the Total Solar Eclipse is an exciting thing and if you own a DSLR you might be able to get a clearer image of the phenomenon. You will need a telephoto lens that is roughly 900mm-1400mm. You can also use a teleconverter to increase the focal length of your lens. Don’t forget about your solar filter for your lens and eclipse glasses to
protect your eyes. Even if you have a filter on your camera do not use the viewfinder, use the LED screen as the sun is very strong and can damage your eyes.

Again, we will have roughly two and a half minutes of Totality. 

Here are a few tips when using your DSLR:

  1. Have your spot staked out as early as possible, as people have been planning this for at least a year
  2. Make sure you have backup batteries, extra memory cards, and if you think you might want to bring a flashlight to use during Totality, I’d suggest a red flashlight.
  3. Carry a small screwdriver kit and Alan wrenches, you never know when you'll need them for your stands
  4. Find a sturdy place where you can park your tripod. After you have setup your camera, lens, and tripod adjust your camera settings to manual (especially the focus setting)
  5. Set the focus to infinity and manually adjust your settings, you may want to take this time to set your bracketing for your images at different speeds. In this case almost any ISO settings will do as the sun gives off plenty of lighting, if you are not sure what to set it at you can try ISO 50-100
  6. Try an aperture between f/8-f/16 with a shutter speed between 1/4000-1/30, really the best way to get the best setting for your camera is to test the setting to get that sweet spot for your lens
  7. Don't forget to put your solar filter on your lens as well as wear them yourself, you don't want to demand your equipment or your eyes
  8. If you have an intervalometer, you can do time lapse photos and free up your hands before Totality to capture the shadows of the eclipse, the people around you, or get some neat artistic shots (Due to our location we may not experience 100% Totality). This may be a good time to get a SnapChat in, too!
  9. Do NOT use a flash, even during Totality. Not only will it ruin the experience for everyone, but it can also mess with your eyes!
  10. Make sure to test everything beforehand so are you prepared with your equipment and have an idea of what settings you will be using ahead of time. You would hate to miss the eclipse during Totality because you are adjusting your camera settings. Since you can take the solar filter off your camera during Totality, you might want to attach it to your camera with string so that you can easily take it off and put it back on after Totality.


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