I thought I would make this picture the latest Today’s Photo image so I could talk a bit about how I created it.
When I made the decision not to travel to an area where I could see totality, I started thinking about what I wanted to do to photograph (and watch) the eclipse. I knew if I stayed home I’d get about 75% of totality, which meant I’d see significant chunks of the sun cut out by the movement of the moon. My immediate thought was this would be a perfect use of a composite of multiple images across time.
On the day of the eclipse, I set up my camera on a tripod with the 18-135 lens on it set to about 130mm, attached a remote shutter, and aimed it at the sun. In front of the lens I had a solar filter from Celestron, and I had a pair of eclipse glasses as well that I wore under my real glasses. I set the camera to Aperture mode at F/8 (although somewhere along the way I bumped it to F/9 without noticing, not a big deal), and using exposure compensation to adjust the shutter down; most of the images were shot at -2 or -2.5, somewhere around 1/5 or 1/25 a second. I set the camera to manual focus, adjusted the rear LCD so I could watch it from a chair, grabbed the shutter remote and sat to enjoy the show, knocking off photos a few times a minute. Every ten minutes or so I had to adjust the positioning of the camera to re-center it on the sun (surprisingly enough, it moves), but otherwise, this was a really low stress, relaxing and fun shoot, allowing me time to enjoy the eclipse and talk to neighbors who came out to watch it as well — and hand them spare eclipse glasses I’d bought just for that purpose.
Why that lens? Why not my 100-400? Simple: it was the one that the solar filter fit. I may do more color photography later, and if so, I’ll look into filters for the big lens and ones that are easily transported and re-used — the one I had was taped onto the lens and effectively one use.
I ended up with about 500 images from the eclipse, missing the last ten minutes or so when the battery ran out and I decided it wasn’t worth replacing it at that point. when that happened, I broke down the camera gear, moved it back inside, and went to import the images into Lightroom. Processing was fairly simple: since I planned to turn this into a composite, my goal was to make sure the images I chose had a consistent brightness and color so the focus of the viewer would be on the changes from image to image. We did have some periods of very light, high cloud/haze which is sometimes visible in front of the sun.
A really nice bonus towards the end were three sunspots that rotated into view on the surface; you can see them in some of the later images in the sequence.
Once I had the images roughly processes, I went and selected 25 that were spread across the entire eclipse. Those I put through a detailed cleanup and process that included removing a filter-created ring around the edge of the sun in each image (think of a bad case of chromatic aberration). I then loaded all of the images into Photoshop, each in its own layer, which allowed me to position them against each other after I removed the black background in each. When I was done, I decided to use 17 of the images. The plan was always to position them in that curve with the maximum eclipse top and center, because I felt it’d look cool (and I believe I was right). After that, it was about moving everything into place and trying to get all of the images aligned with each other and evenly spaced.
Overall, the processing took about 2 1/2 hours, and I ended up with the 17 individual images and the final composite for the day’s work. And I’m really happy with the results.
This is a great example of using pre-visualization to plan how to take the images you need to get the final result you want. My goal was always to do this composite and that led to what images I’d need, and that they needed to be consistent across the group, so that created the shot plan.
And it all worked just as I expected it to, and I’m really happy with the results.