Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already heard the news: Oregon will play host to a total solar eclipse on August 21 this year. This is a pretty big deal, since the next time such an eclipse will be visible from Oregon is in 91 years. Understandably, the chance to photograph this once-in-a-lifetime event is one worth taking for Oregon photographers. Here are a few best practices to help make sure you don’t miss the shot.
As mystical as solar eclipses seem, we know exactly when and where they’ll occur. Fans of the phenomenon are known to follow them around the world, booking all the hotels and campsites within the “path of totality” (the area where the total eclipse is viewable) months or even years in advance. As a Madras inn manager told the Oregonian, “we’ve been sold out for about three years.”
So if you were thinking you could just drive down from Portland the day before and find a place to stay, think again. Fortunately, there should be plenty of viewing areas along the path of totality for anyone willing to make the drive. The 90-mile-wide region starts centered around Depoe Bay on the coast and passes over Salem, Madras, and John Day before beginning its southward curve across the country and down to South Carolina. It’s within this zone that the best photographic opportunities will be.
Wherever you go, be sure to get there early so you have plenty of time to set up. For Oregonians, the eclipse will begin at about 10:15 a.m.
What do I need to get the shot?
- Solar Glasses For starters, solar glasses are an absolute must in order to ensure safe sun viewing. We recommend the solar viewing glasses from Vixen Optics as they are made using a “SolarProteck” shielding plate with will not break or tear keeping your eyes safe and offering the best solar viewing possible.
- Solar Filters To photograph the Solar Eclipse you will need either a Solar filter or very high ND filter (at least 14 stops).
How do I get the shot?
When it comes to actually getting the shot, there’s really only one piece of specialized gear you’ll need: a solar filter. Solar filters are essentially extra-extra-strong neutral density (ND) filters and will ensure that your camera’s sensor and your eyeballs are protected while shooting. Other than that, a telephoto lens of at least 300mm (preferably longer) is suggested and a tripod is an absolute must. You can use just about any camera, including a compact superzoom, although you might have to cut your own filter out of solar film if your lens has a nonstandard (or nonexistent) filter thread.
It’s also possible to stack regular old ND filters if you don’t have a solar filter, but you’ll probably want around 14 stops of ND power for best results. Photographers have reported getting away with less, but caution not to use optical viewfinders when doing so — DSLR users should switch to live view.
While the totality phase will last up to a couple of minutes at most (varying slightly depending on your viewing location) there is plenty of time for other great shots in the hour or so that it takes the moon to complete its transit in front of the sun. During the totality, it’s safe (and recommend) to remove any filters from in front of your lens. This is also the only chance you’ll get to capture the sun’s corona, which is too faint to be seen with a filter on or when the sun isn’t blocked fully by the moon. At all other times, make sure the filter is secured over the lens.
A variety of camera settings will work, but with the high resolution of modern digital cameras, we recommend working in the f/5.6 to f/11 range to maximize sharpness while avoiding diffraction. You can take some sample shots pre-eclipse to dial in your shutter speed, and you may also want to use auto exposure bracketing just to make sure you’ve got plenty of options. Again, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many, so don’t be afraid to overshoot it.
Beyond photography, don’t forget the simple things: a hat, sunscreen, water, comfortable shoes, a sandwich; and try not to let the shock and awe of the totality phase keep you from pressing the shutter button. Other than that, remember to be in the moment and enjoy the experience as much as possible. You’re going to be well into your hundreds the next time you get to experience such a sight in Oregon. (Hey, people are living longer every day, right?)
Solar Eclipse Events with Pro Photo Supply
Solar Eclipse Camping with Sony
August 20th, 7pm- August 21st, 11am, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm
Join us in experiencing and photographing the natural phenomenon of the total solar eclipse!
We are hosting a camping workshop with Sony at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, complete with camp sites, opportunities for astrophotography, Sony gear for rent, and our Sony rep to prep you for photographing the total eclipse.
The total eclipse is at 10:18am. It will last a little over one minute.
Tickets include camping passes, admission to Wood Shoe Tulip Farm activities, and solar eclipse glasses. Food is not included.
Each camping site fits two tents. Let us know if you would like to share a site with someone. Tickets are per individual, not per tent or tent site. So for example, if you are sharing a tent with another participant, you would both still pay $60.
This workshop is open to all photographers, but if you like Sony gear, this a great opportunity to try out some new bodies and lenses.
Check out Wooden Shoe’s event page and activities here.