Nikon Tips for How to Photograph the Eclipse!

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Unless you live under a rock, you're aware that on August 21, 2017, North America is going to be treated to its first solar eclipse in nearly forty years and first TOTAL solar eclipse in nearly a century. 

This is going to be a once in a lifetime event for many photographers. 

If you've ever tried to take a picture of the sun at sunset or sunrise you know how difficult it can be to get the right exposure or shutter speed (and that's with a less powerful rising or setting sun). The eclipse on August 21st is going to happen when the sun is at its strongest, and that changes things. Thankfully our friends at Nikon have put together a SUPER helpful blog post as well as two videos (below) hosted by Nikon Ambassador Lucas Gilman about how to get the best photographs on the big day.

SAFETY

We'll only skim over that as we already did an article on how to safely View the Total Solar Eclipse, which you can check out here.

Nikon states,

When viewing or photographing the partial phases of a solar eclipse or the maximum phase of an annular eclipse, you must use a solar filter. Even if 99% of the sun is covered by the moon, the remaining 1% crescent is dangerous to view with the naked eye and can cause serious eye damage or blindness.

Safe solar filters for cameras and telescopes are available as either "Full-Aperture" and "Off-Axis" filters. Both of these filters fit over the objective (front end of the telescope) or camera lens. Do not place a solar filter in the filter slot of the larger telephoto lenses that feature those filter slots!

Full-aperture solar filters are the preferred filters of choice. This is because the filter completely covers the front of the telescope so the entire mirror or lens is used. No refocusing of the telescope or camera lens will be needed when you remove the filter at the beginning of totality or when it is replaced back on the telescope/camera lens at the end of the total phase
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The only time you can safely view the eclipse without any protection is if you are directly in the path of totality during the two minute period where the sun is during a full eclipse. Here's a video of the path of the eclipse. If you're not in that thin red band, then don't take off your filter or protective eyewear at any point during the eclipse.



GEAR

You can put a solar filter on any DSLR you like with a long lens, like a Nikon D500 DX format DSLR. The smaller sensor provides a multiplier to telephoto lenses that might be helpful when shooting something far away liek the sun. It also has a VARY ANGLE LCD which makes working on a tripod much easier but you really don't want to be in LIVE MODE for very long because even with the solar filter on, long exposures could damage your sensor.

So, what's the bare minimum you should have in your kit for the Eclipse? 

  • 200mm minimum lens length
  • tripod
  • solar filter
  • eye protection
  • remote shutter trigger
  • extra flash cards
  • extra batteries
Remember, this is going to be up to a three-hour event, a tripod will save you a lot of time and stress during the moment of totality. Just set it and forget it like it's a Ronco oven, except if you don't have a solar filter on your lens, your camera's sensor is what'll get roasted.

SETTINGS

Now, there are really no hard and fast settings you can set your camera on to get a perfect shot, but you can save yourself some time by getting close and adjusting. 

Start by setting your camera to manual mode. Manual exposure is necessary as your camera won't know what to do with all that light on auto exposure and most of your images will be blown out. 

Make sure your solar filter is on the front of your lens and that you're wearing your safety glasses BEFORE you look through any optical viewfinder. Remember: your solar glasses you have may be certified to look at the eclipse, but they might not be rated to look at it through a magnifying lens. 

If you're lucky enough to be in the path of full totality, you'll have less than two minutes to get your shot. So quickly REMOVE your solar filter (the only time it's safe for you to do so) and try these settings:

  • iso: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/200th
  • Aperture: f/8

Next, Bracketing - Bracketing - Bracketing. 

I would recommend using the Bracketing mode on your Nikon to ensure that you get the image you desire. If your camera doesn't have a bracketing mode, you can quickly shift between different shutter speeds and take a bunch of exposures. Here's a video to help with setting up your camera.


Next, you should ask yourself what kind of image do I want? Do you want an image with the eclipse in the background, hovering over a landscape like some alien planet? 

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(Credit: Dr. Miloslav Druckmüller)

You can easily use Nikon's IMAGE OVERLAY MODE to properly capture the difference in exposure. Remember, that solar filter on your lens is going to make everything outside of the sun in your frame underexposed. So, again, having the proper gear is half the battle in any shoot. 

Perhaps you want an extreme close up of the corona? Then you'll need to use a long lens like a Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm lens. Or Maybe one that's even longer. 

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(June 21, 2001 total solar eclipse, Chisamba, Zambia. Nikon N70 SLR, Vixen 80mm Refractor f/18. Baily's beads at second contact. During the eclipse, one huge prominence was seen even before the total phase began. Photo by: Fred Espenak)


Or do you want a series of images? Use Nikon's Multiple Exposures setting in the menu to capture the waxing and waning eclipse like this.  


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(Mar. 29, 2006 total Solar Eclipse, Jalu, Libya. Nikon D200 and Vixen 90mm f/9 Fluorite Refractor. The eclipse is captured in 15 images, taken every 12 min. throughout the event. The diamond ring at each contact is included while the corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Photo by: Fred Espenak)

Here's another video from Nikon to help as well.



Whatever you decide to do on August 21st, be safe and have fun!

Source: Nikon
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