How to prepare my camera for a solar eclipse

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There will be a solar eclipse on 26th December that can be viewed from my city. In addition to buying safety glasses, I also want to prepare my camera, if possible.

The camera is a Panasonic FZ-70. I have a UV protector and four ND filters - 2, 4, 8, 16. I am also buying a circular polarizer. With all these accessories stacked together, and high shutter speed (1/2000 s), low ISO (100) - will it be safe for taking pictures during the eclipse?

There are some solar filters available on Amazon, but their price forbids me from buying them.

Any additional advice?
 

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  • #3
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Some tips from Nikon -- https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/tips-and-techniques/how-to-photograph-a-solar-eclipse.html

People who just want to view the event can make a pinhole device. It's easy to do, and there are many documents and how-to videos on the net about it -- here's a sample: http://solar-center.stanford.edu/observe/Safely-Observing-the-Sun-for-Yourself.pdf

I would recommend, for safety reasons, that anyone contemplating viewing or photographing the sun in any way, eclipsed or not, should confirm the safety of the method with relevant information from a .gov or .edu site, e.g. https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhelp/safety2.html
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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There are some solar filters available on Amazon, but their price forbids me from buying them.
Amazon: Thousand Oaks Optical Solar Filter Sheet. Cheap, and installed with scissors and tape. Make sure it is flat and practice the camera settings ahead of time. Should be easy and you should get great pics with that camera.

Caveat; not a total eclipse, right? In which case the filter would be removed for totality.
 
  • #5
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As others have said there are many how to guides on line so in addition to what we say here you might find other ideas.

https://www.howtogeek.com/321132/how-to-take-photos-of-a-solar-eclipse-safely/

You should have multiple cameras too for different kinds of photos. As an example, sun light filtering through leaves during the eclipse will show a scalloping effect on stuff on the ground which is in fact the leaves acting as a pinhole camera.

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-z_V3pWaDEuA/WZvdfqT-e1I/AAAAAAABmXg/PZJb4OJQ99kx1YWGUWoIlyXrORSns6nHwCLcBGAs/s1600/Pattern+of+light+through+tree+leaves+during+solar+eclipse+2017+WA_IMG_0804.jpg
 
  • #6
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Don't forget that pictures of the crescent shaped shadows, such as caused by "pinhole" gaps between leaves on a tree are also fun. Some of the cameras should point away from the sun to see those fun images also.

A few years ago, I posted some pictures here of those crescent shadows on the body of our beloved late @jim hardy.
 
  • #7
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Don't forget that pictures of the crescent shaped shadows, such as caused by "pinhole" gaps between leaves on a tree are also fun. Some of the cameras should point away from the sun to see those fun images also.
Unfortunately it's all buildings around me. There are trees, but not ones that I can go near (the trees are in other people's property; you will not want to mess with those people). We do have a small roof garden, but the plants have lost most of their foliage in the wake of winter. Photos like what @jedishrfu posted is impossible for me to capture.
 
  • #8
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Here's another take on total eclipses by Destin Sandlin of SmarterEveryday youtube channel:

 
  • #9
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This afternoon I took a risk and shot a photo of the sun. It was around 2pm local time; the Sun was losing its mirth. The settings were as mentioned in the OP. The UV filter was nearest to the lens, and the ND filters were stacked randomly. The circular polarizer was not used.

P1120741.JPG

Before clicking the above photo, I took one snap of the surroundings with the same settings. It was pitch black.

P1120744.JPG
 
  • #10
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Unfortunately it's all buildings around me. There are trees, but not ones that I can go near (the trees are in other people's property; you will not want to mess with those people). We do have a small roof garden, but the plants have lost most of their foliage in the wake of winter.
Even window shades or venetian blinds can do the same thing. Prepare for being surprised by having cameras that can look all around you.
 
  • #11
DaveC426913
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I got a 5x8 sheet of welder's glass from my local Princess Auto for about 16 bucks.
 
  • #12
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I got a 5x8 sheet of welder's glass from my local Princess Auto for about 16 bucks.
Good idea. That should provide good protection from the UV radiation.
 
  • #13
Andy Resnick
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This afternoon I took a risk and shot a photo of the sun. It was around 2pm local time; the Sun was losing its mirth. The settings were as mentioned in the OP. The UV filter was nearest to the lens, and the ND filters were stacked randomly. The circular polarizer was not used.

View attachment 253983
Did you use all 4 of the ND filters for this?

When I photograph the sun, I use an OD 4 reflective filter (partially silvered glass). This is important! If your filters are absorptive, you are going to burn them. Similarly, do not use the circular polarizer- you will torch it. And you probably don't need the UV filter since you have the ND filters. For me, using the OD4 filter lets me expose at (IIRC) f/4 and 1/2000s when the sun is high in the sky. Fast shutter speeds are required to freeze atmospheric distortions.

It's also worth mentioning that an OD 4 filter transmits 10^-4 of the incident light, while (for example) an ND 16 filter transmits 1/16 of the light. Use of all 4 ND filters results in a net transmission of 10^-3, so I'm not surprised that your image is overexposed. If you haven't, stop the lens down more.

As a rule of thumb, just briefly look (bare-eyed) through your stacked ND filters at the sun, that should give you an idea about how much light is incident on the sensor.

One advantage you have with stacked filters is that you can remove filters as the sun is occulted to more-or-less maintain the same exposure settings. Regarding the order of the filters, it's hard to say what is 'best practice'. Again, if they are absorptive filters you need to really limit the time you are actively observing the sun.
 
  • #14
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Did you use all 4 of the ND filters for this?
Yes, all four.
If your filters are absorptive, you are going to burn them. Similarly, do not use the circular polarizer- you will torch it.
I will not point the lens towards the sun for anything more than the minimum time required to take a photo - zoom, focus, click. I generally use MF rather than AF, especially for shots like these. Depending on the image quality, I will change the exposure values (without pointing at the sun), and then take another photo. Maybe 5s per click. Will this damage the filters?
I'm not surprised that your image is overexposed.
I reduced the ISO and increased the shutter speed, but did not play with the aperture. Maybe a lower aperture value would have resulted in a slightly better shot.
 
  • #15
sophiecentaur
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If your filters are absorptive, you are going to burn them.
I think this is unnecessarily pessimistic. ND filters left out in the Sun will not frazzle - neither will most other materials - if exposed for only a few minutes. Not many things will do more than get hot to the touch after prolonged exposure.
Filter damage arises when you place filters in the path of light that's been concentrated by a light gathering lens or mirror. (Near the eyepiece of a telescope for instance)
Of course, at the focal point of a camera lens, the attenuation by front end filters needs to be great enough to protect the sensor (or even the focal plane shutter)
The shiny Mylar Solar filter material that's for sale on Amazon and other Astro suppliers will safely reduce the light levels so that you can look directly or point the camera at the Sun. The film is not high quality but it will give pretty acceptable images through a 'long' camera lens. But even a 500mm lens won't fill the image sensor and you need to crop the pictures.

I generally use MF rather than AF, especially for shots like these.
+1 Essential. Your camera will be fighting against your requirements to get a suitably underexposed shot. Bracketting exposures can be an advantage if you want to get the best images of the corona in a total eclipse - or even sunspots.
 
  • #16
Andy Resnick
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Filter damage arises when you place filters in the path of light that's been concentrated by a light gathering lens or mirror.
That's the case for my lens that I use- the filter holder is located near the aperture stop, not the entrance pupil, giving a "concentration factor" of about 8.
 
  • #17
Andy Resnick
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I will change the exposure values (without pointing at the sun), and then take another photo. Maybe 5s per click. Will this damage the filters?
Probably not, but be aware.
 
  • #18
sophiecentaur
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That's the case for my lens that I use- the filter holder is located near the aperture stop, not the entrance pupil, giving a "concentration factor" of about 8.
My Pentax doesn't handle clip-in filters. I need one diameter of filter for each lens (on the front) and, of course, as my lenses get bigger, adaptors won't do - I think that applies to most people and the OP talks in terms of stacking filters so I doubt he has clip ins.

You are lucky - probably a Canon?
 
  • #19
Andy Resnick
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My Pentax doesn't handle clip-in filters. I need one diameter of filter for each lens (on the front) and, of course, as my lenses get bigger, adaptors won't do - I think that applies to most people and the OP talks in terms of stacking filters so I doubt he has clip ins.

You are lucky - probably a Canon?
The 400/2.8 lens has a slot for a 'drop-in' filter- the advantage is that the filters need only be 52mm diameter instead of 150mm, but the disadvantage is that the filter has to be thinner than usual- when I needed to replace my polarizer (ahem...) I had to grind down the replacement until it was thin enough.
 
  • #20
sophiecentaur
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The 400/2.8 lens
It's a 'camera' lens, rather than a 'telescope' then? Telescope OTAs are a bit more modular. It's swings and roundabouts between the two approaches but your drop in filter system is sort of half way between. What make is it?
 
  • #21
Andy Resnick
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It's a 'camera' lens, rather than a 'telescope' then? Telescope OTAs are a bit more modular. It's swings and roundabouts between the two approaches but your drop in filter system is sort of half way between. What make is it?
It's a "Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF" to which I can attach a 2X teleconverter TC-301.

More info here:
https://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/nikon/nikkoresources/telephotos/400mm.htm
https://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/nikon/nikkoresources/teleconverter/index6.htm#TC-301
 
  • #22
DaveC426913
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I generally use MF rather than AF, especially for shots like these.
+1 Essential. Your camera will be fighting against your requirements to get a suitably underexposed shot. Bracketting exposures can be an advantage if you want to get the best images of the corona in a total eclipse - or even sunspots.
Not to nitpick, but WB was talking about focus, not exposure.
 
  • #23
sophiecentaur
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Not to nitpick, but WB was talking about focus, not exposure.
Hah! A valid nit. Manual Focus is vital for all but the smartest of cameras. MF and MX both important for good Astro images.
 
  • #24
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Took another snap today. Settings: Shutter speed 1/2000 s, Aperture f/5.9, ISO 100. Four ND filters stacked together, with a UV filter. Local time: 3-12pm.

P1120852.JPG

One silly mistake that I have made is that, I have not used a timer. The photo seems to be out-of-focus.

The time of the (partial) eclipse is 8:27am to 11:32am IST.
 
  • #25
sophiecentaur
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One silly mistake that I have made is that, I have not used a timer.
Sorry but I don't understand what a timer would be for if you are using an exposure of 1/2000s.
Manual focus is pretty important as the camera will have little information to go on in that scene if it is trying to autofocus. I have found the same problem with astro pictures. The sharpness of focus is subjectively different in a normal scene in which 'some' parts can be in focus and others not, without the picture looking particularly blurry. Solution is to take a lot of exposures and to make sure the image in the finder is not too bright; the eye is not used to focussing on single bright images on a dark background (just like the camera's brain, I suppose). Live view can help if you have it on your camera. Zoom lens controls can be very 'loose' and the ∞ on the scale means not a lot. A stack of ND filters can cause flare if the source is very bright and the flare in the first filter of a stack won't be undone by subsequent filters - unlike with a purpose built high attenuation filter - which will do a much better job of suppressing multiple internal paths.
A Baader solar filter is not very expensive (certainly not in terms of the possible cost of travelling to a suitable viewing site and you can get the mylar film and make up your own for only a few quid plus some cardboard to stick it on.
 

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