From an eclipse ring to a step-up ring

With three weeks to go until the 2017 total solar eclipse, I’m preparing and testing all my equipment for the day.  I was gifted a 62mm solar filter for my camera, and I have a camera with a 62mm focal length – my 19mm f/3.8 Vivitar lens.

So yesterday, I tested out my equipment.  Went outside, put the solar filter on my camera, aimed at the sun, and shot.  Bang.

Shot with Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens, Thousand Oaks solar filter. Photo by Chuck Miller, all rihts reserved.

Well, we know that the solar filter works, that picture was shot at nearly f/8 and all we have a is a yellow dot.  Great.  Just what I want.


That’s just a yellow dot.

That’s not going to show me any definition of an eclipse.  It’ll look like a tiny dot all the way to totality and back.

That’s not an eclipse… that’s going to be more like an ellipsis.

Crap.  Three weeks to go and I could be making the biggest photography mistake possible.

I quickly scrambled through my assortment of lenses.  Here’s a “nifty fifty” from a long time ago, back when I was buying Russian glass on a regular basis because it was cheaper than getting Nikon glass.

But the filter mount on this nifty fifty is 52mm.  The solar filter I have won’t fit on it.

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

Come on, Chuck, think of something.  You can’t photograph this eclipse without a solar filter or you’ll roast your camera sensor.  You ever take a magnifying glass in the sunshine and roast an ant’s head?  Same thing.

No way can I get another filter.  The company that manufactures the filters is completely swamped with back orders.

Then it occurred to me.

The screw-on filter is threaded for a 62 millimeter mount.

My Russian glass lens has a 52 millimeter mount.

If I can find a way to bridge the gap…

Ding.  Lightbulb just went off over my head.

A quick trip to the Photo Center of the Capital District, and a quick consultation with my bud Nick Argyros.  Nick not only runs the Photo Center, he’s got drawers and drawers of parts and filters and other accoutrements.

And after a quick conversation, Nick went to one of his file cabinets.  He returned with three metal rings.

“These will work for you,” he said. “They’re step-up rings.”


Some people, so as to not purchase different sized filters for their various lenses, often purchase the biggest filter and then use step-up or step-down rings to attach those filters to their lenses.  Economy.

The first ring he brought me was a 52-55mm step-up ring.  He then attached a 55-58mm step-up ring, and finally a 58-62mm step-up ring.

Perfect.  More flexibility.  After much thanks and a quick donation to the Photo Center, I tested out the camera again – this time, by attaching my old Russian 50mm f/2 HELIOS-81 glass to my Nikon Df.

And this came out.

Shot with Nikon Df camera, 50mm f/2 HELIOS-81 lens, Thousand Oaks 62mm solar filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.


Now for a little post-processing, and this came out.

Solar test. Nikon Df camera, 50mm f/2 HELIOS-81 lens, Thousand Oaks solar filter, adjusted with Google Nik software. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Now this still may look like a tiny dot, but my plan is to photograph the eclipse – from start to totality to finish – and capture the stages in sequence, and stitch everything together.  And with this post-processing on the photo, I can get sunshine and solar flare and eclipse all at once …

Ooh yeah.

Those step-up rings really worked.  Thanks to Nick Argyros and the Photo Center of the Capital District for a saving move.  Awesome.

Now to get everything else ready.  I only have three weeks to prepare for this trip, and I CANNOT leave anything to chance.

Not one single thing.