An Eclipse!! The last time we had one was in the days of analogue; I was shooting BT’s new HQ in Runcorn that day and recall how odd the light was, viewing it through a set of welder’s goggles as the contractors were still on site, working on the security gates. We all stood around watching and listening as the birds fell silent and the sky went a weird tobacco colour that was not quite sunset, nor proper night.
So, this week’s isn’t total, but currently the weather is set fair for Friday morning and in Notts, we’re likely to witness something pretty memorable. So, if you are thinking of getting your camera out,
Do read on…..
Solar images to eclipse the moon.
On Friday 20th March we can look forward to two exciting events: the first being Vernal Equinox, the official start of spring, and secondly, and rather more stunning, will be the near total eclipse of the sun. The moon will pass over the sun from around 8:25am, be at it’s maximum around 9:31am and complete it’s transit by 10:41am. The path the moon takes and our location in the UK will give us a near total block of the sun’s light, and depending on where you are at the time of the eclipse you’ll see around 85-95% eclipse. So lets hope you’re able to get a chance to watch the show instead of being stuck in a really important meeting. To safely enjoy the spectacle it is absolutely critical to protect your eyes from staring directly into that ball of molten energy. Sunglasses just aren’t up to the task, even the darkest ones you might own will still let too much light energy pass through and leave a permanent record of the sun on your retina, if not worse. So please get some solar glasses from any of the national newspapers and magazines like The Sky at Night, you can also by them online from Amazon. One word of caution, some of the sunglasses listed are only sunglasses with solar in the name and are definitely not up to the job of protecting your eyes from looking directly into the sun. Make sure that the item’s description mentions you can use them for the solar eclipse, image 1.
If you’re able to make the most of it and photograph it, then it’s even more important to have the right light reducing filters over the end of your lens. Make sure it’s dark enough to be up to the job too! A single polariser won’t block enough of the power from the sun to stop you ruining your eyesight or boiling the sensor on your camera. Don’t forget that all lenses will magnify and focus the light into the back of your camera. That means you’re repeating the science experiment where you focus the light from the sun into a single beam of heat, to a temperature high enough to burn paper and scorch wood.
The key to getting good photos of this event is in the preparation before hand. Essentially you’re going to be shooting from one exposure extreme through another and back to the first extreme over the course of 2 hours and 16 mins.
Finding your location can be as simple as the car park at work, right through to the top of a good hill in Derbyshire or your nearest local beauty spot. Essentially you want a location with a good, uninterrupted view of 2 and a half hours worth of sky. If where you are is right in the heart of the city, you’ll need to get up high to be able to follow as much of the action as you can.
The kit you’ll need should be, your sturdy and ever faithful tripod, your camera and lenses (preferably, the longest one you own), formatted memory cards, full batteries, cable release or intervalometer, your solar glasses and lens filter of choice. I’ve heard it is possible to do it with a 10 stop ND filter, but you can buy a whole variety of filters specifically designed to do this job. Again, Amazon is your best friend here, with many different types of filter available. They range from ones designed to fit over a specific lens diameter to sheets of the stuff that you can cut to size and use on several lenses, images 2&3.
It’s also worth pointing out that you will want to remove any clear filters you might already have on the lens. This will help cut out the possibility of getting double image of the sun on your images. It’s rather a lot like looking out into a dark night through a double glazed window and seeing two images of your self starring back. Remember to put the filter back on once you’re all done shooting, image 4.
So you’ve got the kit and chosen the spot to shoot from, what next? It’s not simply a case of turning up, setting up and starting to shoot. Ideally you’ll need plenty of time to set up, then some tinkering time to allow enough time to rattle off some practice exposures and focus tests.
Set your lens and camera to manual for shooting and choose a low ISO. You’ll be working with fast shutter speeds ranging from 1/500th sec. to 1/8000th sec. (possibly even faster) and also need a range of apertures too (f8-f16). To begin with you’ll need a narrow aperture and fast shutter (e.g. 1/8000th sec @ f16) and as you reach maximum eclipse you’ll need a wider aperture and slower shutter speed (e.g. 1/500th @ f8). It can take a couple of attempts to get the right balance between shutter speed and aperture for the optimum exposure, but take note of the ones that work as you’ll be using them again once the maximum eclipse is over. These settings will differ greatly depending on how dark the filter is in front of your lens. The darker filters can mean you’ll have less flare and over exposure issues. The bonus of lighter filters may be that you own one already. However, to cut out too much extra light means you’ll need to stop the lens down. If you go beyond a certain limit you’ll end up with too much fringing and lens aberrations as diffraction becomes more of an issue f22 and above for example.
Focusing can be done a number of ways, from doing it manually using live view. Using auto focus on the sun and then switching the lens over to manual focus. It can even be done by taking a shot, checking the image zoomed in and making a small, manual adjustment to the focus and shooting another test shot, but this process is far more hit and miss. Lastly, if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere with an awesome vista, focus the camera to the farthest horizon and then take a test shot of the sun and check the results zoomed in. However you choose to focus, make sure you have the filter on the lens before you even point the camera skywards and contemplate looking through the viewfinder.
As far as composition goes, you won’t want to waste the drama of the eclipse on a wide angle view as the sun will be absolutely tiny in the frame. So get as close as you can on the end of the longest lens you own. However, you might want to grab an eerie landscape shot at the point of the maximum eclipse, you’ll need to be prepared to quickly change the lens and camera settings, then swap back over straight afterwards. The far simpler alternative is to have two cameras set up. One with a long lens and the other with a wide angle. The second camera doesn’t need to have much in the way of filters attached so long as it’s shooting more of the landscape and isn’t pointing directly at the sun.
Lastly, it’s simply case of keeping a weather eye on the forecasts to ensure you’re up and at your location in time to thoroughly enjoy the moment as you capture some memorable images, but above all stay safe. Protect your eyes and kit and be aware of whats around you as you set up to make sure you don’t trip over in the countryside.
Intermediate Photography- Level three
SWIFTER, BETTER SHOOTING SKILLS!
£79 for the day
Saturday 9th May 2015
We’ve made some changes to our ‘Learning Photography’ platform of courses and introduced a new level which sits between our old Stage 2 & 3 days. The previous Stage 3 which covered close up & macro plus lighting for portraiture is now your Stage 4 itinerary and is on Saturday 20th June (see website for more details).
So, what does the new course cover and who should attend? We’re expecting anyone who wants to shoot subject matter that’s bringing them some challenges; we’re covering the situations where you’ll need to leave your default centre weighed metering, where lighting is patchy and contrasty such as for stage performances or gigs. We’ll look at sports & wildlife photography where your subject matter is on the move, often quickly and in any direction whilst keeping that focus sharp!
If you want to shoot in low lighting or at dusk, we tell you how best to plan your timings for urban and rural landscapes and if you want to control contrast for landscapes, we shall teach you about using graduated filters. Fancy trying polarisers? ND’s? Grads? You’re going to have the opportunity to do so when we go out for the afternoon. In short, it’s a day of looking, learning and trying as we develop your photography to a new level.
Course content – in brief
- Learn to use specialist metering modes
- Discover how to follow subjects on the move with tracking focus.
- The secrets of dusk and low light shooting.
- Filter use – grads, polarisers, ND’s
- On hand help, advice and support as you take your own images on location.