On August 21st a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The last time a total eclipse was visible from the U.S. outside of Alaska or Hawaii was on February 26th, 1979 over the Pacific Northwest. Not very many people saw that eclipse because the weather was poor (thanks, February clouds). Prior to that, there was a total solar eclipse on March 7th, 1970.
What is a solar eclipse? Simply put, a solar eclipse is the lineup of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The Moon, wedged in the middle, will cast a shadow on Earth. Those of you in the umbra will get to witness a total eclipse. If you’re in the the penumbra, you’ll still get to see a partial eclipse. First contact is in Oregon then continues on to Idaho, Wyoming, the NE of Kansas, and quickly to Missouri, and onward. See the entire predicted schedule here. Another great resource for approximate schedules can be found via Astronomy Magazine. When the eclipse reaches totality you can watch it with your bare eyes (more on that later). Stars will become visible in the day.
However, during the partial phase leading up to and following totality you need to take care to protect your eyes and your camera’s sensor. Recommended are Baader AstroSolar filters and AstroSolar even has a DIY version for camera lenses but experiment at your own risk! Some people like to make pinhole cameras for events like this. Also, while some people use flash ND filters, which come in sheets, or stack 3-6 ND filters on their lenses, it is still highly advised that you not look through the viewfinder (even if almost all of the sun is covered by the moon, the remaining crescent can be dangerous to view with the naked eye, especially with the magnification effects of a viewfinder) and the jury is still out over whether these methods really actually prevent all sensor damage.
In this video, ON1 Coach and adventure photographer Hudson Henry explains why this total solar eclipse is so special and also shares some online maps and electronic scouting tools to help you plan where and how to photograph it, go over what gear you’ll need to get the best eclipse images possible, and talk about some camera settings and technical strategies to capture those images – so grab your pen and paper for notes because there’s a lot of information in this video!
For even more info or if you have any questions, be sure to explore ON1’s amazing Plus photography community. Here are some of the resources brought up in the video (there is also a transcript/closed captioning on the video).
• Interactive Google map of the eclipse
• Sun Surveyor for Android & iOS
• Hudson’s fluid head video (& why he loves fluid heads for stills)
• Eclipse glasses to protect your eyes
• And, of course, BorrowLenses to get the right gear for the event!
This eclipse is a big deal. Over a million people are coming to Oregon to see it. We hope that you get out to photograph and enjoy this rare event. Please just take a lot of precautions with both your gear and your eyes! Don’t underestimate the importance of booking things early – whether that is gear, camp sites, eclipse glasses, or rental vehicles. For example, all Oregon State Park sites are booked already. However, there are many more private sites available so start searching now.