October 23 will play host to a partial solar eclipse visible through most of North America. Keep an eye on your local news and check your calendar to see exactly when this event will occur for you. And, for the photographers out there who want to capture this event, there’s still time to make the necessary preparations to ensure that your eyes and your camera survive directly looking into the sun.
1) Pick the right lens — The longer the focal point on the lens, the more you’ll be able to capture. Remember that the sun is really far away (compared to anything on Earth) so you’ll want something that can focus on a very distant object and zoom in on it.
2) Know your exposure — Solar eclipses require very different exposure settings than other events. Check this chart to see what settings you’ll want to use in order to capture the eclipse in all of its stages.
3) Get a tripod — For any kind of astrophotography, you’ll want a tripod to prevent camera shake. So, invest in a good one that you can adjust easily and practice using it before the eclipse. Waiting until the last minute to test new gear is a bad idea.
4) Get a Solar filter — It’s easy to mess up the optics, lenses, and chips in your camera if you don’t get a special solar filter designed for to protect your equipment for this kind of photography. Do the same if you’re planning to observe through a telescope or binoculars.
5) Get #14 welders glass — These glasses can protect your eyes for direct observation. Don’t use them and then look through a telescope or camera, though. And don’t use sunglasses thinking they’ll protect you — sunglasses will actually make it worse as your pupils will widen to allow in more light to compensate for the darkened lenses.
Solar eclipses are wonderful events and very memorable. I still remember watching my first solar eclipse as a kid, using a cereal box as a pinhole camera so I could “watch” it safely. With a few simple precautions, you can not only watch a solar eclipse, you can record it for posterity as well!
— da Bird