A Moving Platform

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Sea based chaserPart 1: Photography from the Sea

Jump to Part 2: Photography from the Air

When taking a picture from a moving platform, such as a ship, timing is everything. First off you will be taking shorter exposures than you can on land. Even if you have a very stable mount, the ship is moving slightly. And that movement is magnified when you magnify the image.

To get the maximum exposure: As totality grows near check the image (using a proper solar filter) in the viewer to see how much it shifts. Locate where the image holds still the longest and try to center the sun there. Then you will have to time your images to start and end when the image is in that location. Depending on the size of the ship, the sea conditions, wind across the deck, and numerous other factors out of your control at that time: the exposure you might get away with varies.

Most of the time motion on a ship will follow a basic sine wave pattern. This means that the rate of movement will be the least when the roll is at its greatest or lowest points. My strategy: Center the picture at the top of one roll, then snap it on the next.

Sometimes a ship will remain moving during the eclipse itself in an attempt to minimize wind across the deck and to make use of the stabilizers. When that is the case, you can no longer time the roll of the ship and will have to work with even shorter exposures. Vibration and random wave patterns mean that you have to keep your eye on the eyepiece and fire off exposures as they are available. The problem with this technique is that you will spend more time watching the camera viewer with an off center or empty image and less time enjoying the eclipse.

Expert chasersFor most the best thing to do when observing an eclipse from a moving ship is to simply sit back and relax, enjoy the view with binoculars, and the fantastic experience of cruising! Because there is plenty of room most people remain seated or in one place making collisions and so forth rare - but they have been known to happen. If you are on the ship with friends and family ask them to sit in places that help block others from obscuring your picture or walking in front of you.

The greatest danger to equipment comes at the end of the eclipse when everyone is celebrating and the captain turns the ship so that the wind is no long negated. At an eclipse in Caribbean we saw tripods and cameras go falling as the ship turned a strong breeze kicked up across the deck. We also saw little kids running around carelessly. My best advise is to set up blockers, pack up quickly when it is over - then celebrate!

It is important to note that you cannot take as many pictures when working from a moving ship, but it can be done. And to the eclipse photographer, that is the important aspect.

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