Today, August 21, is an exciting day for many. There will be a total solar eclipse. What does that mean? It is not the end of the world, as some religious fanatics claim, it is simply the moon passing between the earth and the sun. Often an eclipse goes unnoticed, but today not. A full eclipse means that for a few minutes the moon will block the sun light in its entirety, except for a thin ring of light, called the corona.
Photographers, get out your cameras. But be aware. In the digital age you must be careful aiming your expensive equipment straight into the sun. If you want to take photos during the build up of the process you must block the light. Not only for protection, it is also the only way to actually see the moon appearing between the earth and sun. Slowly it will move further and suddenly when the moon is right in front of the sun, all lights go off.
The view is simply spectacular. For a few minutes you will see this ring of fire in the sky, until the moment the light reappears with a short flash and then the main show is over. During these few minutes you can shoot straight at it, without any protection. Use a tripod and a reasonable room (say 300mm and up).
What settings to use? Under these circumstances it is vital to use manual settings and fine-tune them until they are correct. Change the three individual settings that make the photo until you see what you like. Do not forget to block the light with some kind of filter. You do not want to fry your sensor.
Where to witness it? Well, if you are in Hoi An, you are screwed. Nothing to see here. You might as well go on a photo tour!
For the full experience, go to the United States, if Donald lets you in. In other parts of the world you only see it partly or not at all.
This photo, although not the best version of it, I took in November 1994 in northern Chile. It is a photograph of a photograph. I still have the film, but the scanner is somewhere in a box. When travelling in Peru someone told us that there would be a total eclipse and the best spot to see it would be Arica, Chile. Being in the area we thought, OK, let’s go. The eclipse would occur in the morning. The first mornings it was cloudy, so we had to get out of town. There was a special train going into the mountains, especially for observing the eclipse. Although there were no more tickets available we managed to get onto it at about 5AM.
It was 1994, so well before the digital era. I had my SLR camera with me, plus a couple of lenses, but what I did not have was a filter that would block the sun light. I could not find one, so I finally settled on a dark rectangular piece of glass that was lying around somewhere. When the moment was there I taped it to my zoom lens and started shooting. I could not see what I was doing. The sun was too bright and I shot with film. When the moment, the full eclipse, arrived I could finally see what was going on. The moon blocking the sun and leaving just a thin ring of light around it. It was magical. I took a couple of shots. Not too many, as with film each photo costs money. I did not see the results until a month later or so.
This photo does not look like the reality. The shutter speed was too long, so we cannot see the thin ring of light. But it does show a little bit more of the moon.