By Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic Photographer and Director of Expedition Photography
Where will you be during the upcoming solar eclipse? It’s certainly an exciting time to be on planet Earth! Photographing the solar eclipse requires some advance thought and preparation, so here are a few tips to get the most from the experience.
1. Location, Location, Location – From Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina there are many great locations to view the eclipse along the 70-mile wide path of totality when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. How wild is that! Everywhere in the US will experience at least a partial eclipse, so finding a location with clear skies to enjoy the show is key.
2. Special Equipment – To safely and successfully photograph the eclipse (Do NOT look directly at the sun with your naked eye!), there are few items you will need that are not already in your camera bag. Most important are special Eclipse Glasses, that enable you to look directly at the sun, and also a Solar Filter for your lens. Research the use of the Solar Filter, as it’s necessary to remove at totality, then re-attach as the sun returns.
3. Think Composition – You can bet that everyone and their brother will be taking telephoto shots of the eclipse, stacking them into a single image, or shooting time-lapse to create a sequence. You may also want to do that (consider working with two cameras), but to make your images unique think about composing an image that includes an interesting foreground or a scenic aspect of the landscape will create. If possible, scout your location in advance to track the path of the sun across the sky and find the best composition.
4. Luck favors the Prepared – To avoid fumbling with your equipment during the event, be sure to practice with your gear. In addition to the special Eclipse Glasses and Solar Filter, essential items include the camera and lens combination of your choice, a sturdy tripod, cable release or remote trigger, fully charged camera batteries, and extra memory cards. And don’t forget about or iPhone, which has a built in time-lapse feature.
5. Be in the Moment – If you’re reading this you’ve probably already made your plans. Wherever you are, and however you plan to experience the event, be observant of everything around you. Of special interest is how will the plants and animals around you react to the darkened sky? Will the birds stop singing and become silent? Will frogs start croaking? About what about the fire flies? Three of our ships will be plying the waters of the Inside Passage in Alaska. Will whales become more active feeding on fish and plankton that rise to the surface at night? The California Academy of Sciences is soliciting citizen scientists to record their observations of plant and animal behavior during the event on their iNaturalist app available on the App Store or Google Play.