Okay, folks, it’s almost here… The buzz of the North American photography world… The celestial event SO BIG even non-photographers are talking about it… Yep, the first TOTAL solar eclipse to cross all of North America in nearly a CENTURY will arrive on August 21.
What makes this event special for photographers, outside of the rarity of this particular shadow path, is the notion of TOTALITY. In truth, solar eclipses aren’t exceptionally rare, but the chance to stand under the TOTALITY — “the moment or duration of total obscuration of the sun or moon during an eclipse” aka the moment where there is no sliver of sun peeking around the moon — is a rare, visual treat that you don’t want to miss. Especially if you’re a photographer.
Also, as previously reported (HERE), Canon launched a total solar eclipse blog earlier this year entitled, A Total Guide to Totality: Solar Eclipse Photography, where you can find a ton of great information about how to SAFELY capture this solar eclipse whether or not you’ll be in a place where you can see the totality.
As such, we reached out to interview one the blog’s co-authors, Ken Sklute, who is a Canon Explorer of Light and professional photographer I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from last year when we tested out the 5D Mark IV at the Albuquerque Baloon Fiesta. Ken brings 42 years of experience of shooting landscapes, sports, and portraits to his writing and advice (and he’s one hell of a nice guy).
Enjoy the interview!
I’ve worked with Canon for many years as an Explorer of Light and when they approached me about this project, I jumped at the chance to help photographers capture this rare and beautiful phenomenon. While it will truly be a sight to behold, it’s definitely not the easiest subject to capture- so I’m excited to be working with Canon to help photographers of all levels shoot this epic moment in history.
What’s your personal history with shooting solar eclipses and have you ever shot a Totality before?
This will actually be the first total solar eclipse I’ve ever shot! It’s hard to believe, but this will be the first total solar eclipse of the sun visible in the United States in 38 years – and the first one to race across the entire country since 1918. I’ve photographed endless different subjects over the years, including lunar eclipses, but it really goes to show how rare and amazing an experience this will be on August 21.
I will be in Casper, Wyoming for the big day – first attending the 2017 Astrocon show leading into the 21st, and then making sure I pick my spot, set up and get ready to capture this amazing piece of history.
What are you planning to bring in your kit?
My Eclipse capture kit will be rather large. I will be capturing images with my Canon EOS 1DX Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with lenses varying from wide angle to super long for a good sun disk size. I will also be capturing totality thru one of Canon’s fine video cameras.
How are you going to approach shooting this eclipse? Are you thinking more wide-angle for multiple exposures and time-lapse possibilities or super telephoto or some combination of both?
I will be capturing many different techniques that I will be assembling as composites after the eclipse to tell the story of the various phases and highlights of this remarkable astronomical treat. I will be using some of Canon’s Super telephoto lenses, like the EF 600 mm f/4 IS L lens, EF 800 mm f/5.6 IS L lens and a few shorter lenses as well to round out my coverage of this total solar eclipse.
In addition to SAFETY, for both your eyes and your camera’s sensor, what’s your number one tip for those setting out to shoot solar eclipses?
Safety is paramount. Protect your eyes from the damaging Ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. If you are not careful you may create irreparable eye damage. We also need to protect our camera sensors with an approved Solar Filter so as not to damage the camera and lens.
My tip for those going to photograph the eclipse is to be well practiced in the various procedures that you will need to know so that you can execute your plan effortlessly during the very short totality period. Lastly, I’d like to remind everyone that plans on capturing images to take a few moments during totality to stop and look at the beauty right in front of you.
Lastly, I’d like to remind everyone that plans on capturing images to take a few moments during totality to stop and look at the beauty right in front of you.
For those who are fortunate enough to experience Totality, what can those folks expect to see and capture that you won’t be able to from other locations?
Those visiting the path of totality will be treated to a visual extravaganza! Once the partial phase of the eclipse is complete, the “Diamond Ring” will appear indicating the beginning of totality. As the beautiful Diamond ring fades, it will reveal “Baileys Beads” which is a phenomenon created by the sunlight shine through the mountains and craters on the moon, creating little dots of light all around the edge of the moon’s shadow. As Baileys Beads fades, you will now be treated to the glowing Corona for just over two minutes. As totality comes to an end, we will see the reappearance of Baileys Beads followed by the last Diamond Ring before the Sun Disc slowly reappears from being blocked by the moon.
Do you have any tips for folks who are unable make it to a location to experience Totality?
Absolutely. I would encourage anyone who cannot travel to the path of totality to select a location where they can go and enjoy a few hours watching the partial eclipse. You will need to protect your eyes with an approved set of solar glasses that they will need to keep on for the entire length of the eclipse. You will be able to watch the moon’s shadow pass in front of the sun!
After the eclipse, what’s next for you and Canon? Are you hosting any Canon Live Learning destination workshops this year or next?
After the eclipse, I’ll continue my work as a Canon Explorer of Light and professional photographer. I am excited to share that I will be leading a Canon Destination workshop to capture the elusive Aurora Borealis in February of 2018 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Thanks again to Canon USA for arranging our interview with Ken. For more information about Ken and to see more of his STUNNING photography, please visit his website, Serendipity Visuals.