How to photograph the (partial) solar eclipse

How to photograph the (partial) solar eclipse

For the first time in six years, a partial solar eclipse will be visible over Central Europe on Thursday at 11:15 am. With these tricks it works with the photo and your eyes remain safe. […]

A solar eclipse is not exactly an everyday event. The last time it happened was on March 20, 2015, when a solar eclipse took place in large parts of Europe. Accordingly, photographers pounce on this opportunity and sometimes travel many hundreds of kilometers to the perfect place. In the German-speaking countries, the North German island of Sylt was overrun by photographers in 2015.

This year, the Moon will cover about 20 percent of the Sun’s disk in northern Germany, in southern Germany it is only six percent, in Austria and Switzerland a little less, wrote the Society of German-Speaking Planetariums (GDP) and the Association of Star Friends (VDS) in a joint statement. By the way, you can find their livestream via our web tip. It starts at 11:15.

But how do you photograph a solar eclipse? And how do you protect your eyes and equipment?

Filter. Filter. Filter.

First of all, use a neutral density filter with a density of 5 (ND-5). To do this, you can use both professional camera filters and make a filter yourself.

Without a filter, direct sun can cause serious damage to your eyes and equipment. A common misconception is that due to the short exposure time, hardly any damage to the sensor can happen. This is wrong for two reasons.

First, when taking pictures in the sun, you should never look through the (optical) viewfinder, but work in live view mode or with a digital viewfinder. Thus, however, the sensor is permanently exposed and can thus be damaged by the solar radiation. Second, the sensor is not the only part of the camera that can be damaged. Especially with longer focal lengths, the lens heats up quickly in the direct sun. This can lead to cracks in the individual lenses and, in the worst case, to splintered glass layers. In the heat, the gluing of the mirror of a DSLR can also come off.

Respect: Various alternatives to ND filters and slides are circulating on the Internet, but they are not safe. It is not advisable to watch the eclipse through a DVD or film negative. These” home remedies ” do not sufficiently protect against infrared and ultraviolet radiation.

Lens and choice of subject

The larger you want the sun in the image, the longer your focal length must be. Very simple. For larger shots of the sun focal lengths from 300 mm are suitable. With the smartphone, you have no chance here.

Basically, there are two basic compositions that make special sense during an eclipse: The darkened sun itself, or the sun in the context of the landscape. In the second subject, the difficulty lies particularly in correcting the large differences in brightness between the sun and the landscape. A simple method is to throw the balance completely out of the window and expose it rather darkly. The silhouettes of a landscape before a solar eclipse usually give spectacular images.

Another obstacle is being able to integrate the sun into the context of a landscape. Steep slopes, mountains and trees are well suited for this. Fortunately, there are enough of them in this country. In the city, buildings and other large constructions can also give a reference point.

If you do not have the necessary equipment, make a virtue of necessity and turn around. Photographing crowds on a hill also gives a good subject.

Setting

Despite the loss of light through the ND filter, you can work with relatively short exposure times when shooting close-ups of the sun. A tripod is still recommended, just because of the weight of a telephoto lens. Set the camera completely to manual settings (M). The automatic modes can do nothing with the special lighting conditions of a solar eclipse. Manually focus on infinite distance. An aperture between ƒ/8 and ƒ / 13 makes sense.

Depending on the exposure time, further light phenomena can be made visible. Shorter exposure times such as 1/125 can make protuberances (streams of matter on the Sun) visible. But for this you need very long focal lengths. Longer exposure times reinforce the corona, the gray veil around the sun.

(This article was first published in March 2015 and was updated on June 10, 2021.)

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