Solar Eclipse?

posted May 20th, 2012
I was surprised someone hasn't already started a discussion on this, but I'm curious about how best to photograph this. Yes, I waited until the VERY last minute. Everything I have found online says you MUST have a special filter for the camera- a high powered neutral density filter. Went to a local (chain) camera store (Not Best Buy, etc.) and inquired. Both workers said that a DSLR, especially the newer ones, do NOT need the filter to safely take a photo of the eclipse.

So, I'm asking you, the experts. Can I use my DSLR (Canon Eos 20D, about 10 years old- with an equally aged Sigma lens, 200-700 f/2.8) to safely take photos of the eclipse tonight? Or, am I going to burn out my sensors?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
posted May 20th, 2012
ooh I hadn't thought about burning the sensor. I would be interested to know more about that bit as well.
posted May 20th, 2012
@swamppoodle It is possible to damage the sensor but unlikely, especially with what you are photographing. The most likely time for damage is when you are using a wide-angle lens, which projects the sun onto a very small area of the sensor, and accidentally do an exposure that is far too long (i.e several minutes). In this case, just as with a magnifying glass and a piece of paper, the sun can burn a trail across the CMOS sensor.

In your situation, with an annular eclipse you will be using shutter speeds of probably between 1/2000th and 1/8000th of a second, and with a zoom lens it will be covering a relatively large section of the sensor. The danger here is pretty minimal, and I wouldn't hesitate to use my own camera and lens unprotected in that scenario.

Remember that, when you take a photo on a sunny day with the sun in the shot (not at all uncommon), you are typically using a much wider angle (so the sun's energy is focused on a smaller section of sensor), your shutter speeds are longer (as you are exposing for the scene, not the sun itself) and the sun is not obstructed by the moon. All of these significantly increase the energy being transferred to the sensor, and of course result in no damage.

However, that's not to say that a filter wouldn't improve the photograph. I might expect that even at 1/8000th of a second, the photo is going to be much brighter than might be desirable, even with the lens stopped down. A strong ND filter would allow you to bring out more detail in the sun, rather than it being just a mass of over-exposed white. Equally, you don't need to spend a lot of money on a filter just for this occasion -- consider objects around the house that could be placed in front of the lens to reduce the intensity, such as x-ray film.

And of course, it goes without saying but NEVER LOOK THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER WHEN USING A ZOOM LENS TO PHOTOGRAPH THE SUN. Even if you have reduced the intensity with a filter of some kind, your eye can't take just 1/8000th of a 'look', and you could easily cause temporary or permanent damage. Additionally, you should avoid using 'live view', or a non-SLR camera, where the sensor will be exposed to the sun constantly (rather than for a tiny fraction of a second)
posted May 20th, 2012
You'll def' need a filter, and (obviously) do not look at it with the naked eye!
(Advice from an astronomer) : )
posted May 20th, 2012
@lorraineb But have you been to the MOON?!
posted May 20th, 2012
@gurry and back? ; )
posted May 21st, 2012
@swamppoodle Yes, I, too waited til the last minute...thank you for posting the question!.... @abirkill thanks for taking the time to to post this explanation!
posted May 21st, 2012
@abirkill Thank you so much for replying! I hope I can get some decent photos tonight!
@vskolnik I hope you get some good photos, too!
posted May 21st, 2012
I had no advice what so ever. I only got lucky that one of my shots captured it. Taken around 730 am Monday in Iwakuni, Japan. Peak time was 7:40 am.

posted May 21st, 2012
Here's the shot I was able to get tonight:
posted May 21st, 2012
posted May 21st, 2012
@vskolnik Great clarity! Lovely shot.
@tigervolleyball Great shot!
posted May 21st, 2012
This is one of my faves from tonight!
posted May 21st, 2012
posted May 21st, 2012
Wow! You guys all got amazing shots! Fantastic!
posted May 21st, 2012
Cool! I love seeing what everyone else was able to get of the eclipse. @beachradish I'm in LA, but we were looking at very similar skies.


posted May 21st, 2012
All we had in Seattle was heavy clouds. Not a trace of the sun. Congrats to everyone who got it.
posted May 21st, 2012
posted May 21st, 2012
Great shots, I wish I had one to share but I don't! Here is a lovely one by @snippets
posted May 21st, 2012
We have wild fires north of Phoenix, so I popped up there chasing the smoke to use as a natural filter. I could watch and take pictures with no precautions. It was spectacular!

posted May 21st, 2012
Best viewed LARGE!!
posted May 21st, 2012
I posted a few shots of the eclipse, but this one is my fave. I used the solar filter from my telescope that allowed me to capture eclipse images to get this shot. The filter simultaneously reflected the image of my family and me, while also allowing the eclipsed sun to shine through. Best viewed large.
posted May 21st, 2012
@beachradish Love the composition!
@lissamc Melissa- AMAZING capture! The dark orange of the sun and the flames, looks like the sun has literally started the fires.
@krissym totally awesome! We didn't get the full ring, the sun set before it even got there, nice collage!
Write a Reply
Sign up for a free account or Sign in to post a comment.