The Sun, our source of light and warmth, is a notoriously poor photographic target, due to its extreme brightness and constant emissions of damaging ultraviolet and infrared radiation. However, with the right equipment, the sun can be a challenging and rewarding photographic subject.
The sun, like the moon, is above the horizon and in our skies half of the time. However, unlike the moon, when the sun is above the horizon, it is always visible (unless it is cloudy). The moon progresses through different phases as it orbits our planet, from new to full and back to new. The sun, unless blocked by said moon during an eclipse, is always a brilliant round disk.
Many of us have pointed our cameras in the direction of a setting or rising sun and millions of sunrise and sunset photographs populate Instagram and other social media sites and gallery walls. But, when the sun is overhead, it is much too bright to view directly. Photographing it requires specialized gear.
This article will outline the basics of solar photography. For information on photographing a solar eclipse, click here. As you might notice, the two articles are similar because the subject is, more or less, identical.
DO NOT look at the sun with your naked eyes. Permanent damage to your eyesight, and even blindness, may result. ALWAYS wear certified solar viewing glasses when viewing the sun. We have all glanced at the sun, but prolonged exposure causes permanent damage.
DO NOT point a camera at the sun unless the optics are fitted with a certified solar filter. Optics can magnify the intensity and brightness of sunlight, and this can cause damage to your equipment. There are many myths about the sun and its ability to destroy a camera, so we did some testing to see what the danger was. Check out the results here.
DO NOT look through the viewfinder of an unfiltered SLR camera when it is pointed at or near the sun because of the increase in intensity and brightness of the sunlight passing through magnifying optics. If using a dark ND filter, you should still not use the optical viewfinder of the camera.
DO NOT look through the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera when it is pointed at or near the sun, because the optical viewfinder will not protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging light.
DO NOT point an unfiltered digital camera at the sun and use live view or an electronic viewfinder, due to the possibility of damaging the sensor with concentrated, unfiltered sunlight. Our tests did not damage the sensor in our camera, but we cannot guarantee that other atmospheric or physical conditions will have the same result.
Basic Solar Photography Gear
Solar viewing glasses. You will want a pair of these when aiming your camera at the bright sun.
Tripod. The sun is bright, but when filtered with a solar filter, your shutter speeds will be slower. Especially if you’re using a super-telephoto focal length lens, telescope, or spotting scope, you will want the added stability of a tripod. A tripod will also help you get the sharpest possible image.
Remote shutter release. When firing your camera on a tripod, a remote shutter release (threaded, wired, or remote) will also help reduce vibrations.
Gear: Solar Filters
When photographing the sun, you will need a solar filter for your camera and lens. Several online tutorials mention using a neutral density filter or stacking several neutral density filters. I ONLY recommend using a properly designated solar filter. I am not alone in this recommendation. Experts at NASA, the National Science Foundation, the American Astronomical Society, Nikon, Space.com, Sky & Telescope magazine, and others all recommend solar filters instead of neutral density filters. Why? Because these are the only filters designed for viewing the sun, and they are constructed not only to dim the sunlight sufficiently, but they also protect your eyes and equipment from non-visible IR and UV radiation. Solar photography is NOT the time to experiment with homemade filtration concoctions to save a few bucks.
However, there are some ND filters out there marketed for solar photography. If you are looking for this type of filter, it looks like the consensus among brands is that 16 stops is the minimum strength for a filter. In comparing different brands, there was a dramatic difference between the light transmission of one brand’s 16.5-stop filter and a competing brand. Use at your own risk!
WARNING: Do NOT use these ND filters with an optical viewfinder! Many come with fine-print on their packaging, so use due diligence and stick to using your Live View mode or an electronic viewfinder.
Your safest option is a solar filter, but the optical glass ND filter may have other uses besides solar photography.
When it comes to solar filters, you have several options: filter sheet, screw-on front filter, or a solar filter that mounts between the camera and lens on an interchangeable lens setup.
Mylar white-light solar filters come in different shapes and sizes. Some, like the one included in this Celestron EclipSmart kit, are round and have tether holes to secure to your camera and/or lens. Many veteran observers also use sheets of #14 Welder’s Glass, which they mount or hold in front of the camera.
These white-light filters thread onto your camera lens just like a standard lens filter. However, they are designed for solar observing. Some are constructed of Mylar film stretched inside of a filter ring, and others are made from optical glass. Again, pay attention to the fine print, some ND filter brands state that you should not look through an optical viewfinder or eyepiece while using them—they are for electronic viewfinders or LCD screens only.
If a screw-on filter does not have the correct diameter for your chosen lens, you can simply employ a step-up ring and adapt the larger filter to your smaller lens.
The color of the sun in your images is dependent on the type of white-light solar filter used. Metal-coated glass and black polymer filters result in a yellow or orange tint. Aluminized Mylar filters show a bluish sun. #14 Welder’s Glass creates a greenish image.
Intermediate filters, like the DayStar Quarks, are designed for solar imaging. They mount between your Canon- or Nikon-mount lens and your camera. The optical design filters out different wavelengths of light, allowing you to see detail on the surface of the sun that is not visible with standard white-light solar filters. See below for the details of our experience with the DayStar Camera Quark.
WARNING: Regardless of the filter system you employ, take care to ensure the filter does not accidently come off your rig while photographing the sun.
Gear: Lenses and Focal Length
Believe it, or not, the sun is almost the same size as the moon in our skies. It feels bigger and, even on a cloudy day when you can see the disk, it looks bigger. But, the fact that we have both total eclipses (when the moon blocks the entire sun) and annular eclipses (when the sun is still visible as the moon and sun are in alignment) shows us that the two cover nearly the identical amount of sky. This is cool when you think about it—and rare in our Solar System.
What this means is that, with a wide-angle lens, the sun is very small in your frame. With a standard-length telephoto lens, the sun is slightly larger, but not frame-filling. To fill your viewfinder, you will likely need to go well past a 300mm focal-length lens.
So, any lens can get you an image of the sun. How close you want to get will determine your focal length. Note that, during a total eclipse, you will see the sun’s corona—invisible at all other times—and that having the sun too tight in the frame will mean you will miss some of the corona. But, when the sun is not being obscured by the moon, the disc will be pretty much all you can see unless you are studying solar prominence with a special non-white-light filter.
Digiscoping is a popular way to photograph the sun and solar eclipses. Many telescopes and spotting scopes allow cameras to be affixed to the scopes via adapters. Additionally, you can just hold a mobile device camera or point-and-shoot to the eyepiece of a scope or binoculars for casual digiscoping. The advantage of digiscoping is that, like with a mirror lens, you can achieve high levels of magnification without much of the expense of an exotic photographic telephoto lens.
Unless you are digiscoping through a dedicated solar viewing telescope, you must use a solar filter for imaging the sun. Some spotting scopes or telescopes have threaded front openings that allow the attachment of screw-in filters, and others have solar-viewing eyepieces. If your scope is not threaded, you can cover the objective lens with a filter sheet (described above).
Camera Settings: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO
There are several variables that will determine your camera and exposure settings when photographing the sun. They are: filter type and strength, focal length, brightness of the sun (is it obscured by haze, thin clouds), and time of year (during winter months, the sun is lower in the sky).
ISO. You should be able to shoot the sun at your camera’s native ISO setting. This is usually around ISO 100 or ISO 200, depending on your manufacturer and camera model. Search the Internet for your camera’s native setting. Depending on your lens and filter, to reduce movement in the frame you might need to bump up your ISO, so be sure to know when you start to get unwanted digital noise and avoid those settings.
Shutter Speed. Even though the sun is very far away, the rotation of the Earth makes it move across the sky at a fair clip. Just like when photographing the moon, you will want a quick shutter to freeze the “action” and eliminate motion blur. Keep your shutter speed as short as possible, when using tripod-mounted super telephoto lenses.
Aperture. Adjust your aperture to control exposure once you have established your ISO and shutter speed. With a solar filter, the sun will likely be the only thing visible in the frame, so use spot metering and try to keep your lens aperture in the sweet spot and the sun in the center of the frame.
The process is simple. Part of the execution is a challenge.
1. Ready. Gear up! Tripod. Check. Camera. Check. Lens. Check. Solar filter. Check. Remote release. Check.
2. Aim. This is where it gets challenging. If you are working at long focal lengths and high magnification, aiming your camera into the sky at a relatively small target is difficult. Add to the fact that the sun is painfully bright to look at, and the challenge is much greater. Here is where solar glasses (for your eyes) and some luck, skill, and practice come into play. Some spotting scopes have “iron sights” on their bodies and/or lens hoods. Those are useful and you might wish your long telephoto had sights, as well.
3. Fire. With the camera aimed, adjust your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus. Start shooting. You can fire off a few frames, or fire off a lot and use image-stacking software to blend more detailed images.
The DayStar Camera Quark Experience
While white-light filters are an inexpensive way to get into solar photography and good for taking photos of the sun and sun spots, stepping up to an intermediate Hydrogen Alpha filter allows the photographer the means to make a serious study of our closest star.
Our friends at DayStar were kind enough to loan us the Camera Quark H-alpha Solar Filter (Chromosphere) to try. The Chromosphere model is designed to show more surface detail, while the Prominence model will allow more study of solar prominences. Fellow B&H writer Chris Witt and I mounted the Camera Quark on a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED lens, a Novoflex Nikon to Fujifilm X adapter, and the Fujfilm X-T2 and X-T1camera. Powering the Camera Quark was the Daystar Filter 5V, 30Ah battery pack.
The 4.2x magnification of the Camera Quark really brought the sun in close with the Nikon 300mm lens. With the Fujifilm’s APS-C sensor, the rig’s 35mm equivalent focal length calculates to be 1890mm, and the sun was filling the frame nicely. The downside was that this made aiming difficult because the sun is a small target in a blank sky. Also, infinity focus (there is no hard stop on this lens) was no longer accurate. With the Fujifilm’s focus peaking, I could achieve accurate focus, but the Nikon’s focus ring was beyond super-sensitive. Focusing was an exercise in patience and steady hands. If we try the Camera Quark again, I may use my Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED lens for a bit less magnification, a higher-friction focus ring—and because everyone should use a macro lens for solar photography, right?
You can see for yourself, but the results we got while shooting from New York City and Oyster Bay, New York, are amazing. Instead of the plain white disc of the white-light filter, you see texture on the sun’s surface. The sun spots are replaced by visually turbulent areas on the sun’s surface and prominences, many times larger than the planet Earth, extending from the edges of the solar disk.
Scientists use the Camera Quark and other similar filters to do in-depth scientific study of the sun—a location that is far from revealing all its secrets.
The sun, except for when it is rising or setting, is a challenging photographic subject. Some special gear is required, but not all of it is pricey. As much as we know about the sun, it still has many mysteries. And, because you cannot just walk outside and photograph it at will, it is not the most prevalent subject of photographs found on gallery walls or social media. If you are up for a challenge and curious about that bright fusion reaction in the sky, try photographing it. If you want to photograph a future solar eclipse, this article is highly relevant since you will be photographing the sun before, during, and after the eclipse!
Are you a solar photographer? Or, are you interested in starting? Share your questions and experiences in the Comments section, below!
Here is my $0.02 on sharpness of solar, astronomical, and lunar images:
The sun is a mean distance of approximately 93 million miles away and the moon is a mean distance of 238,855 miles away. Neither the moon’s cratered surface nor the sun’s explosive surface make them perfectly smooth spheres.
When I pixel-split my solar images, be it the ones captured with a sharp Nikon 300mm f/4, a sharp Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope, or any other optic, regardless of whether I am using a glass or metal-type solar filter, the sun is only, at its best, "kind of" sharp.
The same applies to images of the moon. I get sharp images, but never as sharp as I really, really want to get.
This got me thinking.
When you photograph something outside of our atmosphere, there is a fair amount of air between you and the subject. The thickness of Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 300 miles, with most of the dense air in the lower altitudes (obviously). Light is transmitted from the sun (or stars) or reflected from the moon (and planets) and it travels through the vacuum of space until it reaches earth. Once it arrives in the atmosphere, all your sharpness bets are off.
If you took a photo of a building, mountain, or person miles and miles away, especially on a hazy day, you probably wouldn't really expect a super-sharp image, right? Now, think about an image of something captured on the far side of dozens of miles of air. Sharp? Probably not.
So, if you are wondering what lens or filter is the sharpest to photograph distant things, or if you are wondering why your lunar craters or sunspots are not tack-sharp, even though you spent a ton of money on a super-sharp lens, just be grateful that earth has a protective shield around it that gives us air to breath and protects us from the harshness of outer space. And, also remember that there is a reason they try to put telescopes in dry places at high altitudes—or in orbit above the atmosphere!
Hi, I would like to know if the process is similar if I want to shoot video of the sun. Im planning to have video footage of the sun using a Ursa Mini 4.6k.
Do you have any suggestions to acomplish good results?
I am interested in using the DayStar Filters Camera Quark H-alpha and maybe a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM. Do you think I would be a functional set up?
All of the same precautions will have to be taken for video of the sun. Look no further than Apollo 12's instant destruction of a video camera to know that the sun can do damage to video!
I am not a video guy, but the process should be similar. Unless you want the sun constantly leaving your frame, you will need a tracking mount. But, having the sun transit your image also makes for cool video and that may even be better as, as dynamic as the sun is, it doesn't change very rapidly in a short video.
The Sigma and Daystar might make a good pair. I would recommend you reaching out to Daystar before you make any big investments. I will say that the combo will be fairly heavy, so be sure you have the right support gear and/or tracking mount.
Let me know if you have more questions. Thanks, Alberto!
I plan on shooting the eclipse, but unfortunately, have not been able to find any solar filters for sale over the last few days. I do have a 10 stop and a 6 stop ND filter, which I could stack to create a 16 stop ND filter, and then *use LiveView only* for shooting. Any advice on whether this method is fine?
I cannot recommend that method, but I do know others have done it. Do it at your own risk and definitely, as you said, do NOT look through the optical viewfinder!
I just finished photographing the eclipse with a 10 stop and a 6 stop ND filters, and they worked great! 10 stop was too little, but 16 stops works great (f22 on my camera).
I am glad it worked, Bruce...but I can still not recommend it!
I am using a Canon 7D Mark11 with Canon 70-200 4 L lens with Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 18 stopp filter and Cam Ranger for remote shooting. Camera is on manual with focusing being done manually.
In test shots, I am finding what seems to be the best exposure @ f4 with iso set at 200 and shutter at 160 or 400 at 400.
When I change to 800 iso and 5.6, it seems the edge of the sun gets a little fuzzy when I blow the picture on the screen.
Any advantage to using a higher iso for the photo?
Also, am planning on shooting AEB for the total -- any suggestions on where to start on the iso and shutter speed setting?
Still have a couple of days to practice and hope for sunny skies.
Before I dive in, please do NOT use your optical viewfinder with that filter. Live View only!
It sounds like the "fuzzy" might be a bit of noise. Maybe? How does the black areas look? The same? Or are there digital artifacts?
There is no advantage to using a higher ISO. You want to keep your ISO as low as possible as long as your shutter speed isn't getting too slow or you aren't opening your lens so much that you are loosing all chances of getting a sharp photo. Also, the higher the ISO, the less the dynamic range, and that will be a handicap during totality.
For your base exposure, I would refer to the exposure chart in this article, or check Fred Espenak's charts on the web (his are a bit more detailed). Figure out what you want to capture and then bracket from there.
Let me know if you have follow-ups and good luck!
Thanks -- I did not have the mirror locked up, so maybe I am seeing some noise. Fred's charts show a filter of 5 and for a 200 iso he shows a 1/1000 shutter. I am trying to determine if the shutter speed should be that fast a f4. Canon suggests setting f5.6 and iso 800 to start for the full sun. Just don't understand why the 800 iso if a suitable picture is obtained at 200 iso.
Also, the full sun practice pictures are a white orb against total black --- the histogram is all the way to the left. Should the histogram show an even distribution? As the picture is solid white against black, how would one determine overeposure versus correct exposure? I plead ignorance for these things.
Also -- not looking through veiwfinder -- wiggling the camera on the tripod until I catch a glimpse of the sun on the iPad. HAHA
The mirror really shouldn't have any effect on the noise, but keep experimenting.
I really never understand it either when I see people bumping the ISO up seemingly unnecessarily. I can't give you a good reason for that. The only possible explanation would be to prevent a slower shutter speed/motion blur, assuming your lens was open to its maximum aperture.
For the full sun, you have to take exposure recommendations with a grain of salt. I have tried different brands of glass heavy ND filters and metal-type solar filters. Different exposures for all of them on the same day with the same sun! So, experiment with your gear and figure out your best exposures.
Yep. The full sun will be an orb floating in the darkness of space. Nothing else will show in the frame. As far as the histogram, it should almost all be on the left edge....and there will be a "hill" where the sun registers. You want to make sure that the sun part of the histogram isn't all the way to the right. The 2/3 point should be good. A mountain of black at the left of the histogram is OK because there is nothing else to see besides the sun...you aren't losing anything to the "shadows."
Good questions! Standing by for follow-ups!
Thanks for the continuing suggestions on the camera set up.
Set the camera @ iso 200 on aperature priority f4.5 and shot a few frames -- 1/1250 gave me some awesome sun spots in the photo. Seems I was overexposing the earlier shots on manual. Went back to manual and confirmed the 1/1250 @f4.5 looked good. Plan is to set the camera to manual and use these settings for the partial portion of the eclipse.
Still a little confused by the histogram -- Not sure what you mean by a little hill on the left edge (my histogram is almost all the was on the left with a little plateau on the edge) the only time I see the histogram move from the left edge is when the clouds move across the sun and I get mountains across the entire histogram. I tried to google a histogram of the full sun, but to no avail.
At times, the photo would show a ghost image of the sun (i.e. two suns in the frame) Is this due to the cloud cover causing reflection? I would move the camera slightly and converge the images and it seemed to go away. Any thoughts on this?
Finally, for the total eclipse, I plan on setting the camera @ iso 100 and bracketing 7 stops from 1/250 @ f4.5. As others have suggested, I set this in C1 so I can quickly move to that setting as I remove the solar filter.
Many thanks to you and B&H for all the assistance to me and all the others who have been helped.
Regarding the histogram, don't worry about the stuff on the left. Just keep your eye on the sun and where that shows up in the graph. Don't blow it out, or no sunspots! Err on the side of underexposure!
The ghost image? My guess, and this is only a guess, is that you are getting flare from the solar filter or your UV filter, or the lens...and the sun is not directly centered. Try it without your UV filter and see what happens. I've never seen flare from a solar filter, but I have definitely seen it from UV filters when light is off-axis.
If it is the lens, then you just have to make sure you have the sun bull's-eyed!
No worries! Good luck! I'll be checking back on Sunday if you have any more questions. Weekend starts now at B&H!
Canon 7D Mark11 w/70-200mm lens @ 200mm iso 200 f5.6 1/2000 with Hitech Firecrest filter
I really want to click that link to the article about the testing of cameras in the sun. "Debunking the myths," but the link doesn't work. Will it ever?
Unfortunately, no. It was recommended that I remove the article after we received a comment on the test that involved potential legal action.
So sorry! I fought to keep it live, but lost the battle. :(
Do you have a specific question? Also, you could email me through the interweb and I might be able to help...off-the-record.
Thanks for stopping by!
Todd, I am a photographer for the Yuma Sun newspaper in Yuma, Ariz. Here, we will see a "partial" eclipse on Aug. 21. My equipment includes an AF-S Nikkor 300mm 1:2.8 D II lens, and an AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm 1:2.8GII ED lens. I use a Nikon D4 body. What solar filter would you recommend for either of those two lenses?
For your 70-200mm, you can get a screw-on 77mm filter. I would recommend a metal or Mylar-type solar filter over the heavy ND filters as you cannot use your D4's viewfinder with the heavy ND filters—you'll have to use Live View.
This one is still in stock, but you need a step-up ring: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1303022-REG/mrstarguy_sg95mmsol_95mm_white_light_solar.html
For the 300 f/2.8, you should get a solar filter sheet as the front element is so large. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1350711-REG/thousand_oaks_optical_sbp1212_12x12_silver_black_polimer.html
Good luck! Let me know if you have more questions!
Thank you, Todd. Really enjoyed reading your "how to" stuff and all of the replies to other readers' questions.
Thanks, Randy! I am from B&H Photo and I am here to help! :)
Have a great weekend and good luck photographing the eclipse!
Great articles regarding the eclipse and the sun. I will be traveling to Nashvile to view and photograph. Some hints for your other readers: Practice taking pictures now (with a solar filter) and determine what the best iso, shutter speed, and f stop works for your setup. Don't rely on auto exposure. The intensity of the sun will be the same in two weeks as it is today, so the exposure will be the same. I like to underexpose to avoid a washed-out picture, but will bracket two stops and tweak the best results in photoshop. Spot metering will not work if the sun is not in the spot ! I've also pre-focused on the full moon this week and will use electrical tape to secure the focus ring. All the best...
Good stuff, Ted! Thanks for your tips and see you in Nashville! Hope for clear skies!
I would also recommend gaffer tape instead of electrical tape...it doesn't leave sticky residue behind. :)
Can I use a red camera filter to view the Total Eclipse of the sun ?
I assume you are referring to a red filter used primarily in B&W photography? The only filter you should use is a solar photography filter. A red-tinted filter will not filter out enough light, nor will it filter out the damaging UV and IR wavelengths of non-visible light.
Do NOT use that filter for solar eclipse photography.
Thanks for asking!
Hello. Thanks for the great article. I have been reading most of the questions and found that many of mine have been answered. I have one left unanswered..I live in SMOKEY NE Washington State. Any tips for shooting thru a smoke filled sky?? Especially during the eclipes. Thanks
Also..I wont see a totality. We will have a particial eclipse I think 87% or somewhere in that vicinity. Do I still take the filter off the lens during this time??Thanks
You are in luck. I have actually photographed the sun through smoke-filled skies back in San Diego in 2003...I even got the cover shot on a magazine with one of the images.
Here is the danger, if there is a lot of smoke, using a solar filter might keep you from seeing the sun at all in the frame. (The same applies to a layer of overcast with clouds). For liability reasons I cannot recommend removing the filter, but I will tell you that, if you do remove the filter, do NOT use an optical viewfinder. Use Live View or an electronic viewfinder instead. This way, you are just jeapordizing your equipment and not your eyes.
And, NO, do not remove the filters at 87%...the ONLY time you can safely remove the filters are when the sun is completely blocked inside the path of totality. Even 13% of the sun is incredibly bright and potentially damaging to your eyes and gear.
I'm a beginner photographer but I really want to photograph the eclipse on the 21st as I'm not sure when I'd be able to see one again. I plan on renting a tamron 150-600 to use with my canon rebel and getting one of the daystar solar filters from b&h. My question is would it not work to simply do a time lapse for the whole event? Or should you manually take the photos?
Good question. You could do a time-lapse of the event, but with that lens, you'll have to constantly re-aim the camera to keep the sun in the frame. Most time-lapse movies would be shot with a wider-angle lens that shows the sun moving across the frame. With that telephoto, you will only get the sun in the frame for a minute or two.
I hope this helps! Good luck! Let me know if you have more questions.
Thanks for the response! What lens would you recommend for a time lapse that would still yield good photos? Or would a time lapse simply not be a good idea? (I'm only thinking time lapse as I'd like to spend less time messing with the camera and more time actually watching the eclipse, but I still want photos)
Another good question. I honestly need to research what others have used in the past...or you could do some snooping, too. Do a web search for "eclipse time lapse" and see if you can find metadata on what lenses folks used. Then, pick the one closest to what you have.
I'll start my own search now as well! Let me know what you find!
So, I have done some research. If you are going with the wide-angle option, I would go out a day or two before the eclipse and do a timelapse at the times of the eclipse to make sure you are getting the positioning correct and that the sun does not leave your frame.
If you are going telephoto and re-aiming, I wouldnt go too telephoto so that it is easier to re-aim when needed and so that the sun does not leave the frame after only a minute or two. I am shooting 300mm on an APS-C camera and that is a pretty good balance, in my opinion, on aiming ease, tracking ease, detail, and capturing a lot of corona during totality.
Newbie to lunar/solar scene. Looked for ideas/hardware to help align long lens (300mm with 2x on Nikon 5100) to sun. Even with a high quality tripod and head, wasn't having much success in getting the sun to hold still. So, need is mother of invention, especially when you're traveling for several weeks through National Park/Forest Service campgrounds, and nowhere near cities large enough to have good photo stores.
Materials required: Two (2) 3" x 5" cards, two (2) plastic filter "wrenches", two (2) heavy duty rubber bands, one (1) pen or pencil, and one tool that will make a small, but clean, hole in one of the cards. Punch, drill, whatever it takes to make the hole in the approximate center of one of the cards. Use the pen or pencil to make an "x" (or "+" if you prefer) in the center of the other card. Use the rubber bands to "clamp" the filter wrenches on to the lens, one with the hole on the solar lens (which needs to come off during totality), the other as close to the camera body as possible. Use electrical or gaffer's tape to hold the cards onto the filter wrenches (doesn't matter which side, just don't let the tape overlap the business part of the whole system - that little hole and the marked "x" or "+".
Set up your camera on the tripod and start swiveling until the white sun dot is reasonably near the x or + mark you've made on the rear card. First time I used it, it took me about 10 sec. to get the sunbeam alignment. Viola, on the swivel screen, the sun was nearly centered in the frame. You may need to make some minor adjustments, but that's pretty easy since it's only a rubber band holding the filter wrench in place.
Minor details omitted, but you should be able to figure it out. Basically, it's the old pin-hole box camera without the box. Even if you have invested in the high end positioning and tracking equipment, this might be a decent emergency substitute. Although it works best with a long lens, you might be able to improvise, using the same principles, for a short lens, or even try the cell phone selfie stick.
Interesting approach. Are you putting a hole in your solar filter?
I wish I had a photo of your rig!
Thanks for stopping by!
No hole in solar filter; everything is external to the lens. Trying to send pics (3), but high internet traffic here in Zion National Parks (sightseers taking cell and tablet photos and trying to send them out by email or web.
The photos came in, and I am trying to figure out how to publish them down here. Stand by!
I am new to this and have never owned a camera. A good friend of mine is sending me a Canon EOS REBEL XTI Camera and a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens / USA.. I need to purchase a battery charger and battery pack for this unit along with other accessories. I am very interested in filming the Sun and of course the eclipse. I have been watching a man on YouTube shooting video of the Sun and Sun Dwarfs and other planets next to the Sun. He said he is using infrared and UV filters. I do not know what type of equipment he is using. Could you please give me advice on what I need to purchase as far as filters, to capture the Sun and of course the other Sun Dwarfs and planets around our sun? I also need to purchase solar glasses to view the total eclipse and also a tripod. I know this camera is at least 10 years old, so I hope that I will be able to use this along with other equipment to do this in a safe manner. I am very confused about the infrared part because I have seen some cameras have to be converted. I would really appreciate your help and I need to make these purchases ASAP!
Thank you very much for your help and I look forward to your response!
Thanks for your questions.
I am not familiar with "Sun Dwarfs"...may you explain?
To start, you need solar filters for your lens. But, with those filters on, you will not be able to see anything but the sun—no planets or other stars...they are too dim and the filter blocks out too much light.
If you are in the path of a total eclipse, you would remove the filter during totality and you should be able to get stars and nearby planets in the frame.
Be sure to check out this article: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-solar-eclipse
Standing by for more questions, if you have some!
Hi, Thank you for the interesting article. I bought the Marumi DHG ND-100000 lens filter for my Canon T4i, I was thinking of getting a better zoom lens as the one I have is 55-250mm. I also have a Sunpak tripod and I am trying to practice for the eclipse. I cannot get the tripod to allow me to take the sun pictures due to the angle. It doesn't have the motion for a high enough angle for what I need. Can you reccomend a specific tripod?
I assume your Sunpak tripod has a built-in panning head?
If you can replace the head with a ball head, you should be able to have more freedom of movement. If you cannot change heads, you will need a new tripod and head.
Here is some homework for you:
Drop a comment in one of the buying guides for more recommendations, write me back here, call us, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get some specific advice.
Shorten one leg of your tripod a few inches. That should give you enough of an additional up angle to do the trick.
Good idea, peter...as long as you dont shift the CG too far and have the whole thing topple on you!
If the Sunpak has a pan/tilt head, try mounting the camera backward on the tripod so that the tilt lever is under the lens. I did that with my Sunpak U212 for a Space Shuttle launch and my Manfrotto 290 for a year long "full moon" project.
Nice concise article Todd.
I'm going to Wyoming to shoot the eclipse. Will be there for 2 weeks, five of those before the eclipse to get some test shots and scout my pre-selected locations. I've shot a lot of test photos using a Canon 7D MkII, 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS II USM with 1.4X, fitted with Murami 16.5 stop. With 1.4X and crop factor this gives a 896mm equivilent. Since I shoot a lot of sports, I'm having no problem capturing the sun on a monopod. I'm shooting in manual mode f8 at 1/2000 sec ISO 100, manual focused at infinity with stabilization on in live view. These exposure settings agree favorably with Fred Espenak's Eclipse Exposure Guide. During totality, I'll shoot on an old heavy and very sturdy Bogen tripod. Bump the ISO to 1000 and shoot f8 at 1/2000, 1/500, 1/125 and 1/60 to capture as much of the carona as possible. 1/60 should get me near 1.0 solar radii of carona although sharpness might be an issue. I'll stack these in Photoshop for a final product.
Hopefully, at 6000' in the high desert, the weather will cooperate.
Sounds like you have a great location picked out and a solid game plan! Fingers crossed for clear skies!
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Thank you so much Todd! This article, as well as the questions and your patient, painstaking answers, is a TREASURE TROVE!
I've enjoyed your articles over the years, but I'm finding that solar photography has a steep learning curve and I picked up a few tricks that I hadn't even imagined to help with my practice for the eclipse.
Thanks again. B&H Explora is just one of the many reasons I love B&H and am a loyal customer.
Thank you for the kind words!
Solar photography is tough! I've been shooting the moon for decades and that only provides some basic fundamentals for the day-time equivalent—really tough!
I find that lunar photography is easier and more fun than solar...but solar, at least for the next few weeks, is a necessary evil!
Good luck with your shots and let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for shopping at B&H!
Thank you for the informative article. My son and I will be travlling to Oregon to view the eclipse on Aug 21. I am practicing now on the sun to get ready. I use a Sony A6300 with the Sony 18-200mm lens at 200mm in Manual Mode with manual focus, and I have tried several different ND filters (10, 12, and 14 stop), as well as #11 and #12 welding lenses
But it's always the same regardless of the filter - I am having a problem with focussing on the sun. I use the Focus Magnifier on the camera (which is like Live View on other cameras I guess?), but the sun is just a big featureless blob and I find it impossible to tell if it is in focus or not. The apparent focus of the sun does not change in the viewfinder with the focus ring set to anywhere between 50 metres and infinity. This is going to be a problem for the eclipse unless i can get it figured out! Any suggestions to help would be welcome.
You bring up one of the challenges of solar photography.
Here are some tips to try"
1. Try autofocus and place the active focus sensor on the edge of the sun...not the center.
2. Make sure you are using spot metering so that the only light in the image is the disk of the sun and that the sun is not pure white with a bright area surrounding it.
3. On my camera, with the exposure set properly, focus peaking works very well and the entire edge of the sun's disk "glows" with the peaking color I have selected. Definitely try it!
4. Another trick is to focus on the moon a couple of weeks before the eclipse and tape your lens focus ring with gaffer tape.
Let me know if any of these tricks work out for you or if you have more questions.
Thanks for stopping by!
Thansk Todd, I tried the focus peaking and that seemed to help a bit, although it does not work with the Focus Magnifier so I have to work with a very tiny sun!.. Autofocus is not working at all. Also the idea of focussing on something else far away is a good one, I will try that too.
Anyways, I think the main thing will be to get a photos during totality, hopefully focus will be easier and also I will be using brackieting.
Thank you too for yor patieint responses to everyones' queiries.
Yep...focusing is a challenge!
Good luck! Swing back if you come up with any tricks or have more questions!