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Preparing for Solar Eclispe
TrueToad 2913

Preparing for Solar Eclispe

Prep Day

What a day, no sooner than I get the camera and filter ready for some test shots, clouds rolled in. Seems the sky's know when you are preparing to come out and take a few shots.  By 12:00 things began to look up as they say, and I was out setting up my solution.

On the day of the eclipse I will be running three systems;

  • My portable DSLR White light solution as described below in this article.
  • My portable CEM 25p with 80mm Stellarvue and Badder continuum white light
  • The third system will be used earlier in the day with HA filtration but not usable during the eclipse due to the filter type.

In this short article, I will cover my very portable DSLR setup and the exposure settings I will be using.

The camera of choice is my D500 - I choose it because it is a 1.5 crop sensor camera.  Although terrestrial-based cameras are not well suited for capturing the sun's image due to their RGB filter, in this case, I make an exception for convenience, ease of use, and portability + rapid ability to adjust the exposure as the eclipse occurs. Also, this camera has video capture as well, but I don't think I will be using that.  Instead, I will simply make timed exposures as the eclipse occurs then in the post put them together in either one panoramic or create a movie from the processed images.

My Lens of choice is my Nikkor 300mm F/4 PF lens - I choose this lens because of a good starting focal length + my teleconverters work with it perfectly for this event. I do have a 400mm and a 600mm but I shy away from their use due to the cost if something bad happens. The 600mm would likely be my choice due to its good balance and longer starting focal length, but again - I am too chicken to point that much money at the sun with nothing more than a thin film stuck on the end. So, the 300mm wins the contest.

My Nikkor Tele-convertor of choice will be my TC20III - This attached to the Nikon 300mm + the fact the D500 is a 1.5 crop factor will boost my field of view to a whopping 900mm equivalent - and that my friends should fill the frame but still give me working edges - if not I also have the TC14III and a TC17III, so regardless I will get a good full-disk solar eclipse with good frame-filling images.

My Three Legged Friend of Choice - I choose my Gitzo Series 3 Carbon tripod to hold everything steady and on top of the tripod I will have the perfect match a Gimbal head that allows ease of rotation and pointing the camera up.  In the extreme angle of the sun above head - the Wimberly gimbal head may pose problems with a camera strike on the tripod - but I tested it today and no worries as the attach point can be slid up to provide more clearance.  Also, the event in my area unfolds between 13:15 until maximum at 14:42, so the angle will be perfect for this tripod and Gimbal head set up.

My White Light Filter of Choice - I choose the Thousand Oaks brand that is certified for this purpose, a link is at the bottom.  I had ordered a 10" sheet and made my filter myself from common household items.  The biggest concern is not having LIGHT LEAKAGE due to damaged film & a tight-fitting filter.  I was able to accomplish this through re-purposing a round Tupper-ware container that fit the lens shade perfectly, took about 45 minutes.

Challenges:

Proper Exposure - Forget using the histogram on the DSLR, Do a dry run and take some test shots - solar films vary but my testing showed on my setup I will use ISO 100, with an f/8 and 1/1000s with my TC17III.  Remember is you swap out your Teleconverters your exposure is changed as well. This will be one of your biggest challenges because of exposure changes as the eclipses reach maximum.

Proper Focus - If you attempt autofocus you may be surprised. I don't have any good advice but what I found during testing was the camera was just an off pinpoint focus when I used autofocus.

Vibration Reduction - Most camera or lens has some form of vibration reduction or image stabilization settings. Given the fact you are using a high shutter speed initially but will need to reduce the shutter speed as the eclipse occurs - My plan is to leave it engaged.  

Not looking at the sun and trying to find the sun in a filtered viewfinder - Believe it or not, I have been frustrated one or two times with my inability to actually locate the sun in my objective be it solar telescope or camera set up.  The shorter the focal length the easier it is, my trick is to point in the general direction then begin making up-down and left-right movements until I see a bright area the move in that direction.  We as photographers have a tendency to look at the subject we are taking the photo of then look in the viewfinder - in this case, do not do that. My camera has a live view with tilt LCD so it was somewhat easier.

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Photographer's Notes

White Light imaging is one of the easiest methods to get very good photos of the Sun's photosphere and any sun spots as well.

Lens
  • Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF ED VR
Camera Body
  • Nikon D500
Accessories
  • TC-17 II
  • TC-20 III
  • WR-A10 Wireless Adapter
  • WT-7 Wireless Transmitter

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