That’s No Moon!

Quick Cellphone shot

I rolled out to get some shots of a rare occurrence. The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse would not reach totality here in Austin, but damned if I wasn’t going to check it out. I knew I wanted to shoot the thing, but the question was… How?

I did not have a solar filter. I looked into making my own, but was pretty pressed for time and amount I wanted to spend on this project, especially since we weren’t going to get the full actual eclipse here. Had I been in the path of totality things would be significantly different. Next time.

This time however, we were expecting about 70% coverage and every article I read said to just sit back and enjoy it or notice all the weird stuff that happens around the eclipse–animal behavior, 360degree sunset, crescent shaped shadows. Due to location, the sunset was unlikely. Not wanting to burn out my camera, the eclipse was unlikely. That left me with shadows. Figured I’d make my own.

The gallery shows the build process for a number of screens I would use to ensure I got something interesting. I’d heard the best shadows resulted from interference in tree leaves, and indeed I have seen a lot of those shots since the eclipse. They’re pretty cool.

My goal was to try a couple materials that would give me interesting patterns when light shone through. I had burlap and tulle lying around from other projects you’ll see on this site and set about constructing screens on which to mount them.

That turned out to be pretty easy as I had a ton of wire hangers left over from still another project. I stretched out the wire from white lighter gauge hangers and used the cardboard tubes from heavier hangers to stabilize the frame. I could have gone much crazier with the tape and made it really secure but ended up using another hanger bent/taped on to form a handle that could be used for mounting.

Interesting shots, so moderate success. These are specifically shadows on concrete, which is  very evident in the shadows of the third. I mounted the screens about 8 inches above the ground and got in suuuuper close to catch what I could. Didn’t actually think they had come out until I got in Post and saw the little half-formed Pac-mens in the shadows.

Welding Glass

So thinking the screens were a bust (at the time) I turned my protected eyes upwards. I was able to score a pair of solar glasses pretty late in the game (thank you local Girl Scout store) and marveled at the eclipse itself. We didn’t get the full path here in Austin, nor did I observe much in the way of weird environmental effects. Still, it was pretty incredible to see a brilliant golden moon in the sky midday. Then to realize that that was the sun itself. Kinda flips the script in your mind for a second.

What I hadn’t realized in my rush to get set up for our version of totality was just how long the damned thing would actually last. I was expecting a brief usable window and ended up shooting for about an hour!

Ok. I took a big risk.

I use welding glass for basic long exposure photography (recent) and I’d read that some welding glass would work in place of a solar filter. Having stared at the eclipse for a bit through my solar glasses, I decided to pull the glass out for a quick peek. Worked. Still had eyes.

So I figured, I’d give the camera a shot at it too. I held the glass over a 70mm, put it into Live View and scanned the sky. When I saw the sliver of sun/moon I took a quick exposure and pulled the camera away so I didn’t risk burning the sensor too badly. At all hopefully.

I had a panic moment when I tried to shoot again with the glass off the lens as my image was blown out full white. Then I realized I hadn’t readjusted the settings for normal use.

I still had a camera! Hooray! And a very usable image of the eclipse at that! I set to work.

For each exposure, I had the camera mounted on a weighted tripod, pointed at eye level and would dial in my settings on camera. Had to get a feel for all this. as I ran a pretty wide range of tests on ISO and shutter speed. I kept the aperture around 8-11 on a manual 70mm lens (crop-sensor so effectively a 105mm). Once set, I held the glass in place manually and tilted up ’til I could frame the sun. Used a remote trigger on a 2-second delay and then once I heard the shutter close, dropped the whole thing back down, reviewed and started again.

I have Lytro camera as well that would have gotten me up to 250mm but sure as hell wasn’t going to risk burning that thing out.

Notice the significant color cast. That’s a result of the Welding Glass tinting. So significant time in Lightroom later and Wallah!