Our Top 10 Tips To Help You Shoot The Eclipse

Our Top 10 Tips To Help You Shoot The Eclipse

1. The best spots to watch and shoot the eclipse in totality

The last time the United States experienced a coast-to-coast total eclipse was 1918.  A narrow band spanning the continental US measuring less than 50 miles across will experience this rare celestial phenomenon in its totality.  Locations North and South of this band will experience the eclipse to lesser degrees the further away you are from the totality band.  August 21st the total eclipse will cross over 12 states and we identified a spot in each state to help you plan your base of operations for the event.

  • Madras, Oregon
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 4 seconds
    • Totality begins at 10:19 a.m. PDT
  • Snake River Valley, Idaho
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 18 seconds
    • Totality begins at 11:33 a.m. MDT
  • Casper, Wyoming
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 26 seconds
    • Totality begins at 11:42 a.m. MDT
  • Sandhills of Western Nebraska
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 30 seconds
    • Totality beings at 11:49 a.m. MDT
  • Joseph, Missouri
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 39 seconds
    • Totality begins at 1:06 p.m. CDT
  • Carbondale, Illinois
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 41.6 seconds
    • Totality begins at 1:20 p.m. CDT
  • Hopkinsville, Kentucky
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 41.2 seconds
    • Totality begins at 1:24 p.m. CDT
  • Nashville, Tennessee
    • Duration of totality is 1 minute, 57 seconds
    • Totality begins at 1:27 p.m. CDT
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    • Duration of totality is 1 minute, 17 seconds
    • Totality begins at 2:35 p.m. EDT
  • Columbia, South Carolina
    • Duration of totality is 2 minutes, 30 seconds
    • Totality begins at 2:43 p.m. EDT


2.  Practice, practice, practice

Very few photographers actually shoot the sun with the intention of capturing this small ball of fire in detail. We use the sun as an accent to create flare, a silhouette and dimension. It is usually over-exposed and that’s fine in most cases because the sun is rarely the main subject. But, shooting eclipse changes everything and makes it important to practice a few times before setting up for the big event. You need to have a plan that includes knowing what filters you will be using, what shutter speed and aperture combination is ideal and what ISO you will use. We suggest keeping notes in your phone or notebook so you aren’t thinking about it when you’re setting up.


3.  Take a tripod or two or three


A good solid tripod is a must for every photographer and most photographers have at least one in a closet hiding somewhere. If you don’t use a tripod regularly it is time to dust it off and make sure you have all the parts you need for it to work properly. A tripod will allow you to set up the camera for composition and then just shoot at different settings if necessary. Nearly all modern cameras have built-in intervalometers that allow you to tell the camera when to start shooting, how often to shoot and when to stop shooting. This is when having more cameras and more tripods really help. Imagine three cameras on three tripods, each with their own composition firing image after image. You know you’ll come back with at least one good image from the event.


4.  Borrow, beg, or rent the latest camera tech

Without a doubt, the most useful advancement in camera technology is the ability to capture a very wide dynamic range. The camera’s ability to capture more detail from your highlights to your shadows and everything in between will prove very useful in this extreme form of photography. Don’t fret if you don’t have a rich friend or relative with all the latest equipment. Renting is an option and with all the online and local options available it shouldn’t be hard to find the best camera to rent. Although as it gets closer to the event this may be difficult so plan ahead and reserve one if necessary.


5.  How do your lenses handle flare?

Flare can be your friend when you know how your lens will react to it. Some lenses handle it beautifully by maintaining details and contrast while others are downright horrible. It is best to test your lens by placing the sun in different areas of the frame; center, top left, bottom right, etc. This will help you identify any problem spots in the lens more prone to flare. If you are using a zoom lens make sure you do the same test at different points in the zoom range.


6.  Buy your eclipse glasses now

Get yourself eclipse glasses, yes you read that right; Eclipse glasses. They look like those silly cardboard 3D glasses we use to wear at the movies but they are absolutely VITAL to viewing the sun/eclipse. They will protect your eyes from all the harmful rays and allow you to compose your shot through an optical viewfinder. You can also compose through the camera’s LCD screen in live-view mode without hurting your eyes but if you plan to watch this live you must have this with you.


7.  Buy a deep, dark neutral density (ND) Filter

A neutral density filter is critical to capturing the eclipse at all stages. A 10-stop filter is a minimum but we love the new Hoya ProND 100,000 filter. It is a 16 3/5 stop filter that will allow you to set the correct exposure for all stages of the eclipse. It can also be used for regular long exposure photography too. Imagine shooting those waterfalls in direct sunlight for 30 seconds or longer.


8.  Don’t be afraid to bracket your photos

It is time to break out the instruction manual to your camera. Most cameras have an auto-bracketing mode that allows you to set the camera’s main exposure then the camera automatically shoots up to 7 additional images at different exposures. This will help guarantee you capture a great exposure at all stages of the eclipse. It will also help you to composite (blend) multiple images together to create a beautiful final photo.


9.  Choose the right exposure mode

You realistically have two options aperture priority and manual. Everyone in the office is certainly leaning towards using manual mode and automatically bracketing those exposures for the best possible photos. But people are who very comfortable with shooting aperture priority are planning on trying that as well. But, in order to successfully do that you must be very familiar with your camera and how it manages exposure as the light changes.


10.  Enjoy the moment IRL (In Real Life)

As photographers we miss a lot of things “In Real Life” because we experience those moments from behind a camera. Nature will be putting on a spectacular show with a lot of moving parts including dancing lights in the sky and on the ground., So take the time to prepare, use as much automation as possible and remember to step back and enjoy the moment and to share it with the people you are with.


Visit Hoya ambassador Hudson Henry’s YouTube channel for more details on how to shoot the Total Eclipse.