In 2017, I captured my first-ever solar eclipse photographs. I drove all the way to South Carolina, and with the help of a special solar filter applied to my camera lens, I captured some sweet eclipse phases. I still have a soft spot in my heart for that image. You know … this one.
But the only lens that could handle that solar filter was one of my old Russian 50mm lenses, and honestly, I like these photos, but the final image as far as I was concerned was “just good enough.” And you know me when it comes to “just good enough.”
So I acquired another solar filter – Thousand Oaks Optical in Kingman, Arizona makes fantastic solar filters for cameras and for telescopes, definitely check them out. Here’s a link to their website.
Now the sun itself puts out a tremendous amount of light, so it looks incredibly large in the sky. However, the Thousand Oaks solar filter can block most of the ambient light, leaving just the core of the sun visible. Which is great if you’re trying to photograph an eclipse.
Yes, I know it’s early 2022, and the solar eclipses I’m hunting won’t arrive until October 14, 2023 (the “Ring of Fire” eclipse, which will necessitate a road trip to the Southwestern United States for me), and the follow-up “Great North American Eclipse” of April 8, 2024 (where I only have to drive to Rochester or Watertown, that general vicinity). But if I’m going to put together a spectacular eclipse photo, I need my specs to be just right.
So yesterday, with the temperature hovering at -3 degrees Fahrenheit, I put my new Thousand Oaks solar filter on the front of the largest lens in my arsenal, my Maksutov MC MTO-11CA 1000mm F10 mirror lens. Then I attached that beast to the front of my Nikon Df camera, and went outside. Brr.
So now it’s time for some bracketing.
The mirror lens only has an f/10 aperture, so all I can control is the ISO and shutter speed. So after I used my camera’s LiveView to find the sun through the filter, I set the ISO at a specific sensitivity, and bracketed through every camera shutter speed for that ISO. Did it at ISO 100, ISO 400, and ISO 6400. Trust me. Do this now, and you’re not doing this while you’re in the middle of a parking lot outside of Santa Fe.
Got this shot for my troubles.
Great. I got the sun. Okay, let’s do some enhancing with my Google Nik software, and …
Okay. I got something. This is a good setting. I gotta remember to get this camera cleaned before I do this again. Nasty dust on my sensor, showing up right in the middle of the sun.
Am I sure that’s sensor dust?
Let’s check another image. Because there’s something here … maybe …
Oh, here’s a good image.
And now for a little enhancement, and I get …
Wait, the sun photo is in a different part of the frame … I didn’t crop anything from this image … but the sensor dust moved with the sun. But sensor dust can’t move inside a camera. It lands on the sensor, and it stays there until it’s cleaned off.
So that means … I didn’t capture sensor dust…
This filter caught a sunspot. A sunspot, right on the sun itself.
Holy Helios, Batman, I caught me a sunspot!
So this is great. Now I know the best settings to get my sun photographs, and to be prepared when the eclipse arrives.
As I said before, best to prepare for this now, and not wait until I’m on my way to New Mexico. Take care of business today and business will take care of you tomorrow.
Damn, I got me some sunspots.
Don’t mind me, I’m still gushing over this. 😀
When I first read this I was listening to the overnight UFO show wind down. That’s where I thought your headline was going.
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