Solar Eclipse!

Solar Eclipse SP12-98

Northern California just finished enjoying a solar eclipse. It wasn’t quite a full monty eclipse, but it was close. Photographing these things is a difficult and a hazardous business. The eclipse is not only dangerous to one’s eyes, it’s hazardous to one’s camera. To get around this I used my darkest ND filter and placed it on my Pentax F 70-210 lens. That old auto-focus zoom lens is hardly my best telephoto, but it does come with 49mm filter ring, which allowed me to use my B+W ND 3.0 10 stop filter. Even with that filter, I didn’t want to expose the camera to the dangerous rays of the eclipse. I kept my camera behind a drawn shade over an upstairs window. The shade protected both me and the camera. When I wanted to take a shot, I quickly used live view to find the sun and then snapped the shot. Even with the ND 3.0 filter, I found myself initially shooting 1/8000 second f16! Just for fun, I added an IR filter to see what would happen. Not much. The camera already has an IR filter, so that wasn’t absolutely necessary for the protection of the camera’s sensor:

To gain more range, I added an old Vivitar 2x teleconverter. I rarely use this TC, because it’s not that good. But this is as good as I could do and, after all, for such images, resolution is not all that important. I’m zoomed out and centered the sun in live view. Then I shut off live view, covered the front element with my shade, and zoomed in. I wasn’t too concerned about getting the sun exactly in the center of the frame, as I planned to crop later on in post. Here’s a sample of an image right out of the camera:

This is during the most dramatic part of the eclipse, when you get the “ring of fire.” With a little post-processing you get this:

Not great, but you get this idea of what was going on. Another sample:

Here you get a bit more of the ring of fire look. In some of the earlier images, at the beginning of the eclipse, you could barely detect what looks like a sunspot: a tiny little spec on the sun. That is not sensor dust, as it appears on the same place on the sun, even when the sun is in a different part of the frame:

As the eclipse waned, clouds began to roll in:

Eventually the fog blocked out the sun altogether:

The next eclipse to strike northern California won’t come until 2023.