Photographing Solar Eclipses - Setups
Author: Bill Kramer
Last update: Saturday, 18-Apr-2015 18:54:12 EDT

Camera Setup Tips

Type of Picture What you'll need Setup
People before and after eclipse Basic Camera Normal pictures
People during eclipse Basic Camera on tripod (NO FLASH!) Longer exposures will blur movements of people. Evening exposure setting, 1/60 and more second depending on background and eclipse angle. For strong contrast use the shorter end of the exposures.
Horizon Basic Camera (NO FLASH!) Evening exposure settings, tripod recommended, 1/125 to 1/30 second. Essentially this is a sunset colors picture. Practice by taking pictures of the horizon just after sunset or before sunrise.
Sky colors Basic Camera (NO FLASH!) Evening exposure settings, tripod strongly recommended for longer exposures. Range is 1/125 to 1 second exposure. Practice by taking pictures of the sky just after sunset or before sunrise.
Planets and corona together Basic Camera on tripod (NO FLASH!) Longer exposures of one or more seconds. Practice setup by taking picture of moon near a bright star to get a feel for how your camera will respond to such a scene.
All sky picture - showing everything from coronal streamers to horizon Wide angle lens (fish eye) or reflector. Tripod for camera rig. Using a slow ASA speed use several seconds to capture the depth of colors and variable brightness. Sky will change continuously between 2nd and 3rd contacts. Wide angle video (reflection ball?) is best when all automatic settings are turned off. Practice by taking night time pictures during a young or very old moon with a variable horizon brightness (just before sunrise or after sunset).
Partial Phases Longer lens or telescope with proper solar filter. Filter density will dictate camera settings. Practice by taking a picture of the full sun around noon and another set an hour before sunset. That will be the range of brightness for the partial phases.
Projections of partial phases Telescope or binoculars shining on light colored background, camera. Normal outdoor pictures. The more contrast and surrounding shadow the better. Unless you are using a telescope for the projection expect the partial eclipse images to be a bit fuzzy and out of focus. A telescope projection will reveal sunspots (if any).
Sunspot occultation Telescope with solar filter. See partial phases above. Practice by taking pictures of sunspots with your telescope. You can use either a filter or a projection method to get very nice pictures.
Pinhole camera effects Regular camera Keep your eyes open! They appear everywhere! Normal exposure for outdoors. High contrast makes the little projections appear better.
Strange shadows Regular camera There are many kinds of strange shadows that appear near 2nd and 3rd contact. Shadow bands are the most difficult to photograph, let alone see in the first place. The ethereal effect of the eclipse is very difficult to catch. When you look closer at the shadows you will notice one side will have a sharp focus while the other side will appear fuzzy.
Diamond ring Longer lens/ telescope and camera

The diamond ring effect results from a small point of photosphere shining through a valley at the edge of the moon while you can still see the corona. A beautiful diamond ring image can be obtained using the same settings as for the inner or mid corona. The key is the timing.

2nd contact is the most difficult. You must remove your filter, refocus, and then shoot. Be careful not to look too early because that could ruin the rest of the eclipse for you.

3rd contact occurs just a few seconds after the bright red chromosphere appears. You will see a tiny point of white amidst the red. At that point shart shooting images.

Baileys Beads Longer lens/ Telescope and camera As multiple points of photosphere shine through valleys along the edge of the moon you will see what was first described by Bailey as a ring of bright pearls. Very fast exposures (1/2000 to 1/1000) will reveal individual points of light. Even though only a tiny portion of the photosphere is visible, it is still very bright and dangerous to look at.
Chromosphere Telescope and camera Immediately surrounding the photosphere is the bright red chromosphere seen using hyrdrogen alpha telescopes. The chromosphere details can be photographed using very fast exposures and a telescope/camera. The chromosphere appears just before 3rd contact and just after 2nd contact.
Prominences Telescope and camera Prominent bright red spots to the naked eye these resolve into "dancing flames" with a zoom lens or telescope. Fast exposures (1/2000 to 1/1000) are all that are needed in most cases. They are the same brightness as the chromosphere.
Inner corona Longer lens and camera As exposure time increases, the prominences will wash out and more and more of the corona will be visible. The inner corona will show strong details in the polar brushes and the base of streamers.
Outer corona Zoom lens and camera Mid range lens of 200mm to 400mm will serve nicely for this purpose with exposures ranging from 1/2 second and upward.
Coronal streamers 200mm lens and camera Exposures will range from 1/2 second on up.
Shadow bands Video camera on tripod A uniform light colored area is needed for the best effect. Good luck, it has to do with being at right angle at the right momemt. A fast video system is needed to capture this effect.
Earthshine Longer lens and camera telescope. Long exposure, greatly overexpose corona and prominences to get a picture of the earthshine on the moon.

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