Planning Ahead for a Successful Solar Eclipse Shoot

June 27, 2017

Written by Dave Henry and Ken Sklute

A total solar eclipse is truly amazing and is absolutely the most majestic natural phenomenon for earth! That’s right… for earth! It’s nature’s gift to earth. Nothing beats it. Nothing!

The thrill, however, began months ago when you decided that you weren’t going to let this eclipse pass you by. After all, it’s the kind of challenge all photographers live for. The challenge that expands our photography skill sets and allows us to photograph something new.

Afterwards you’ll sit back and reflect on what it was exactly that enabled you to get such great images and you’ll soon come to the realization that it was all in the planning.

That’s usually the case in almost everything we do.

It was over a hundred years ago that Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” What he meant is that a prepared person, with the right skills at the right place at the right time, can take advantage of an opportunity and create something.

Ansel Adams said, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

On August 21, 2017 the table will already be set, all we have to do is be there at the right time, the right place and with the right gear and simply click the shutter.

In this case, you spent days researching what it will take to get the sun disk size you’d like. You read all the articles on the Canon Digital Learning Center website about the eclipse. You bought a new 100-400mm zoom lens because you figured that, after the eclipse, now’s the time to begin learning how to photograph birds that you’ve always wanted to do. And, you’re really glad you bought the 1.4X tele extender too. The birds and the sun disk will thank you for that.

The eclipse has become your catalyst for action.

There’s a lot to consider in planning to shoot a total solar eclipse, especially since most people around you have never photographed one either. The payoff is that it all comes down to that tiny 2½ minutes called totality. That’s the big show.

First Things First

First, take stock of what gear you already own. Ask yourself if you have the lens you’ll need to give you the size sun disk you’re trying to get. If not, is the eclipse worth buying a new lens? This is a good time to consider whether or not the new lens will have an after-life. If you’ve always wanted to take up bird photography or have a child that plays in several Saturday morning municipal sports teams, then a new 100-400mm zoom might seem a more worthwhile investment.

If you think you’ve outgrown your eight-year-old Rebel and would like to update your camera body because you’d like to have a variable-angled LCD screen or simply want something with more Megapixels, then an 80D might be a great investment.

If you’ve been wanting a new tripod, now’s the time to take that plunge.

Essentially, you’re making these decisions now instead of waiting until August when all the dealer’s shelves will be empty.

If you haven’t yet purchased your solar filter, do it now. If you wait until July, most legitimate sources will be sold out. Be very cautious where you buy your filter. Re-read our article here on solar filters. Don't delay, or you may be forced to buy something off the Internet from an unknown source. By then the Internet will be swamped with offers to sell you whatever they consider to be a solar filter at outrageous prices. Your eyes and your gear depend on that filter.

Not only will the camera stores’ shelves across the country be empty, so will everyone else’s.

Re-read our article Living in the Shadow about where to go to shoot the eclipse.

The Event

It is estimated that 230 million people live within an eight-hour drive of the narrow 65-mile wide path of totality. Tuesday, the day after the eclipse, most people will have to be back to work. That means the roads will be jammed Monday afternoon. Roadside services for gas and food will be stretched to the max.

You need to anticipate that. If you don’t already have a room for Sunday and Monday night, it’s probably too late so plan accordingly and make plans to camp. It will be August so at least you won’t have to worry about snow.

Most cities in the path of totality are conducting seminars for local land owners about zoning and land use issues such as public access and health and hygiene requirements. Don’t plan on simply parking on someone’s property because land owners are also looking to make a quick buck just like roadside services.

Bring an ice chest full of food and drinks. Remember, many of the people on the road won’t have thought ahead about that and will be relying on already maxed out roadside services.

Remember any medications, sunscreen, insect repellant, long sleeve shirts and a wide brimmed hat to keep as much of that midday sun off of you as possible. You’ll be standing in the sun constantly moving your camera every minute to keep the sun centered in your viewfinder for 2½ hours. That’s a lot of work.

Gear Prep

In the days or weeks ahead, while you are at home, before the eclipse, make all your exposure tests. Determine what your exposures will be with no clouds, thin clouds and heavy clouds. Use all these weather conditions, while you are at home, to do your homework. Keep a notebook with these exposures with you so you’re prepared to make adjustments moments before the eclipse should weather move in.

Resist the urge to make a last-minute change of venue. If you’re suddenly doing it, chances are hundreds of others are also doing it. Anticipate massive traffic jams. If you’re shooting out in the wide-open country in Missouri, you won’t be immune to that either. Most country roads are only two lanes so the potential may be worse than in a large city. Law enforcement across the county are already gearing up for this mass exodus. Federal land management agencies are already making plans for a huge influx of people that will probably exceed their resources.

Practice at home with your camera to see what it will actually be like to shoot something happening before you that you have no control of.

Before you leave home, be sure to set the correct date, time zone and time (including Daylight Saving Time) in your camera. This will help you track the eclipse progress in your image processing in the days after the eclipse.

Apps

Weather is always a concern for this type of event. Watch the weather reports constantly. Consider downloading a live Doppler® Radar tracking app such as RadarCast® that will show you incoming weather and be able to forecast when it may be clear in your area.

There are several apps that will give you all the details about the eclipse, including event times, using your GPS coordinates. Three of particular interest are:

• Eclipses by Olav Andrade
• Solar Eclipse Timer by Gordon Telepun
• Solar Eclipse Timer GPS Converter by Gordon Telepun

These apps will provide you with unbelievably detailed information down to the second during the eclipse.

It’s a great new world we live in with all this technology.

Now, go out and have fun capturing it on your sensor or just viewing the greatest event nature gives to earth.

If you have questions you'd like Dave and Ken to address in an upcoming article, email them at: info@theeclipseguys.com.


Click here for more information on photographing the solar eclipse!

SAFETY FIRST: Never look at the sun without accredited and approved solar filtration over your eyes. Permanent, irreversible eye damage and/or blindness can result in seconds. Never point your camera into the sun without an approved solar filter over your camera lens(es). Not using a solar filter at eclipse magnifications will ruin your camera in seconds. Never improvise, modify or use general photography neutral density filters.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

http://learn.usa.canon.com

© 2017 Canon U.S.A., Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.