For those of you who purchased a Solar ND filter to photograph the total solar eclipse we enjoyed in August of last year, you may be looking for more opportunities to use the highly specialized gear before the next total solar eclipse graces North America in April 2024. Thankfully, there's a large articificial satellite orbiting overhead which begs to be photographed as it crosses paths with the sun.
Of course, I'm talking about the International Space Station (ISS), a 239 x 356 x 66 ft (72.8 x 108.5 x 20 m) platform in low Earth orbit that circles the earth about 15.5 times per day. The frequency of the ISS's orbits means that there's a decent chance that its path will fall between you and the sun in the not-so-distant future. When exactly will the next ISS transit occur in your area? There's a website designed to answer that very question.
Simply enter your coordinates on the ISS TRANSIT FINDER website (or give it permission to auto-detect your location), enter a start date and an end date (up to 30 days in the future), and a travel range from your location (up to 149 mi / 240 km), and the website will show you the dates and times of all solar (and lunar) ISS transits available for viewing from nearby locations. If you never purchased a solar filter, you can still take advantage of the lunar transits occurring in your area or you can simply pick up a solar ND filter to take advantage of all available transits.
WARNING: Use only ND filters certified for solar photography. Do not look directly at the sun. Do not frame the sun using your camera's optical viewfinder while using telephoto lenses. Use Live View for framing your composition and focusing.
Most of the tips shared for capturing the solar eclipse apply to photographing an ISS solar transit, with the main difference being the duration of the events. When positioned in the middle of a total solar eclipse, the entire event may take several hours (with totality ranging from seconds to 7.5 minutes). However, an ISS transit of the sun or moon will last no longer than about 1.75 seconds (with typical transit times being significantly shorter). That means that you'll want to have an accurate clock available (down to the seconds), with a wired (or radio remote) trigger in your hand and your camera set to high speed continuous burst mode.
OK, perhaps calling it a composite would be more accurate, but "Hyper-HDR" makes a more-dramatic title, right?
During a solar eclipse, the moon moves between the sun and our viewing location, taking, minimally, a bite out of the solar disk. While it is possible to use an exposure that captures a small amount of detail in the moon during totality, I am not aware of anyone able to do so during the partial phases and, even during totality, the moon is poorly lit with the perimeter of the moon quickly becoming too bright. So, to get a perfect moon exposure, a composite is needed.
Remember us suggesting that you capture an image of the full moon just-prior to the August 2017 solar eclipse? Well, this post is about what you can do with that image.
Start by selecting one of your partial solar eclipse photos to use as the base image. The moon is going to show full regardless of the sun image selected and that means the balance between the amount of sun and moon showing is going to be determined by the sun image. I opted to show a significant portion of the sun in this composite. Hint: error on the side of showing too much sun because the moon can be positioned over more than just the missing portion of the sun.
Because my moon image showed a very slight amount of shadowing on the top right (clouds prevented me from getting an image on the night of the fullest moon), the bottom-left side of the moon blended better with the sun, driving my option to select a sun image with the top-right being eclipsed.
Process both of the images (if captured in RAW format) and open them as layers in an image editing program (Photoshop is perfect). Position the moon image on the top layer and use a layer mask to allow only the moon itself to remain visible (masking out all of the black). Reposition the moon layer so that it aligns properly over the sun and make any layer mask edits necessary for ideal blending.
That's it. The perimeter of the image will be pure black, so feel free to adjust the framing or cropping or even increase the canvas size to create the final image desired.
OK, so you missed one or both of these events? No problem. Get your solar filter and take a picture of the sun on the next clear day. Then, on a clear night during the next full moon, capture the moon image with the same lens (sans solar filter of course). Process both images and position your cut-out moon partially over the sun, creating a fake solar eclipse. Very few will spot the difference.
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
One of my goals for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse was to bracket exposures ranging from no-blown-color-channels to as bright as I could create. Using three custom modes set for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing), I was able to capture 21 images with exposures ranging from 1/8000, f/8 ISO 100 to 1 sec, f/4 ISO 800, covering over 18 stops of exposure difference.
You may have noted that I was using an f/2.8 lens and could have opened up one stop wider. I decided that vignetting at f/2.8 took away most of the wider aperture advantage in the periphery and, with the sun creating the most light in the center of the frame, the periphery brightness was what I needed most from this frame. So, I opted to stay with f/4.
A number of the darkest images in the set proved too dark to be useful. In the brightest image, all three channels were blown in nearly half of the image. Thus, I felt successful in meeting that goal.
There was of course a purpose to that goal and that purpose was to create an HDR image that made as much of corona visible as possible. While I also had a 200mm lens deployed with the same purpose, the 400mm angle of view fully contained the maximum corona able to be captured under the slightly hazy Tennessee skies.
To create this image, I stacked 14 exposures using (essentially) the solar eclipse bracketing procedure I recently shared. I think that I could continue tweaking this result indefinitely, but ... it is time to label it "finished" and move on to all of the others.
In this case, you could say that I got a "star" for effort.
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Mount : RainbowAstro RST-150H Harmonic Drive Mount
Location : Warm Springs, OR, US
Date : 21, Aug, 2017
Director : Prof. JunHo Oh
Photographer : ByoungJun Jeong, YoungSam Choi
BGM : Flowing Air - Mattia Vlad Morleo
Like scores of others, you (probably) and I photographed the solar eclipse this year.
While partial solar eclipse images are easy to process (simply make them bright without blowing the red channel), the total eclipse images when bracketed, are in a different league in terms of complexity.
So, like me, you are probably now asking, "How do I process the exposure-bracketed total eclipse pictures?"
While there were many articles teaching us how to photograph the eclipse, those telling us how to process the images we captured during totality are scarce.
A great solar eclipse photography strategy is to extensively bracket exposures during totality, when the corona becomes visible. While the corona is relatively bright just outside the edges of the moon, it becomes very dim far away from the sun. Of course, with the sun being 93 million miles away, the word "far" takes on a significant meaning.
While I hoped I could simply load a set of bracketed-exposure images into my favorite HDR software (Photomatix or Photoshop) and be finished, the results returned were not acceptable to me for a couple of reasons. The primary problem was that the software did not properly align the moon (it moves across the frame in subsequent images), creating ghosting and still did so even if I pre-aligned the moon in each image. I could have overlaid the moon from a single frame, but ... I still wasn't satisfied with the overall look of the results.
In the end, after numerous trial and error attempts, I settled on an easy, relatively fast way to merge the results in Photoshop as my solution. Note that there are many techniques that can be used to process a stack of bracketed total solar eclipse images, so don't think this is the only option. But, this technique is easy and it produces a nice result.
Hopefully you captured your images in RAW format for the highest quality and in that case, processing those RAW files into 16-bit TIFF format is the first step needed.
Next, the images need to be loaded into layers in Photoshop. I use Adobe Bridge for this task, browsing to the folder the files are located in, clicking on the first of the series and shift-clicking on the last to select them all. Then select the "Tools" menu, "Photoshop", "Load files into Photoshop Layers ..." and a new Photoshop document will open with all of the images stacked in layers.
Unless you were using a tracking mount, the moon disk will need to be aligned in the layers. I simply moved each layer into identical position. Click on the layer and move it using the move tool. Toggle layer visibility of the image containing the targeted moon position for use as a guide and use the arrow keys to slide the layer being adjusted into position.
Once the images are properly aligned, crop the image as desired. Trimming away the missing edges and centering the sun was my decision.
Next, Order the layers from top down in darkest to brightest sequence. Because I set up the camera to shoot brackets from darkest to brightest (using three custom modes), this sequencing happened automatically for me.
Select the first/top layer and shift-click on the second-to-last layer. With all except one layer selected, reduce the layer opacity using the "Opacity" box at the top of the layers palette. Try starting at 20% and adjust to taste from there. I suggest keeping the image on the bright side at this point.
Making the opacity adjustment (likely) immediately produced an image that looks decent, but one ready for some contrast adjustment. Click on the top layer and create a new adjustment layer. The adjustment layer type you should select depends on your Photoshop skill level, but it needs to be a contrast-adjusting layer type that you are comfortable with, curves being the most powerful and levels being very easy. Use the adjustments the selected tool offers to bring life into the image. If using curves, try selecting two points to create an S-curve that darkens the darks colors and brightens the light (though likely only slight brightening is needed if the layer opacities were set low enough). If using levels, try reducing the mid adjustment slider. You may find that adding multiple adjustment layers is helpful. The beauty of adjustment layers is that they are non-destructive and can be created or deleted at any time.
Because the edges of the moon become brighter as the exposure becomes increases, the edges of my moon were not as crisp as I liked. Also, Baily's Beads were one of my favorite aspects for the solar eclipse and they were only found in the images captured just before C2 and just before C3. So, I incorporated an additional layer into the top of my layer stack and used a layer mask to make only the lunar disk and Baily's Beads visible. This means a black mask (use CTRL-I with a newly-created mask selected), with the desired visible attributes painted white (I used the paint brush). Another option for sharpening the moon is to duplicate one of the existing layers (CTRL-J), likely a darker one, giving it a 100% opacity and a layer mask with only the lunar disk made visible.
A technique that can be used to bring out some contrast in the corona is via Photoshop's High Pass filter. There are a number of ways to do this, but here is one of them:
Select and combine all layers by clicking on the topmost layer, shift-clicking on the last and pressing CTRL-E. Then copy the combined layers to the clipboard by press CTRL-A to select the entire image and then pressing CTRL-C to copy it. Next, undo changes until one step back past the layer-combining step. Select the top layer and press CTRL-V to paste in the copied combined layer.
With the new layer selected, desaturate it by pressing CTRL-SHFT-U. Implement the High Pass filter selecting from the menu: "Filter" > "Other" > "High Pass...". From the High Pass filter dialog, adjust the radius until it seems like the results will work well, with a low value being good for sharpening hard edges such as the border of the moon and a high value being good for adjusting overall image contrast, such as the corona.
The next step is to change the blending mode of the High Pass layer to "Overlay" by using the blending mode drop-down list founds at the top of the layer palette. The opacity of the High Pass layer can be adjusted to reduce the amount of effect and a mask can be used to hide undesirable portions of that layer. You can create a second or even third High Pass layer if you think it will help.
Adjust individual or smaller groups of layer opacities is another step that can be taken to optimize the final appearance.
For the total solar eclipse HDR image shown here, I combined eight 1-stop-bracketed exposures (out of 14 captured) using opacity values of 100% on the bottom (the brightest frame), 25% for the next three up, 20% for the next three up and 30% for the darkest layer on top. The top layer has a layer mask that allows only the center of this frame to show with a strongly-feathered border creating a natural transition to the layer below (one click in the center with a very large, totally-soft paint brush tool selected).
With so many options available, you may decide it worthwhile to create multiple versions of your HDR image and that is a great idea. You worked hard to prepare for and capture the solar eclipse, so having multiple images processed differently simply increases the reward.
Try this technique and let us know how it works for you! If you like it, share it with others. If you know how to improve it, share that with us. I may update this article as feedback comes in, so ... it might be worth stopping back to read it again later.
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
The Canon Digital Learning Center has posted what seems to be its final solar eclipse article installments, one entitled "The Big Day" and the other featuring a pocket field guide designed to be a handy reference for the aforementioned "big day."
Latest Solar Eclipse Articles
For a full list of CDLC solar eclipse articles, see here.
With free expedited shipping at B&H, you can still likely get a new telephoto lens in time to capture the event! And if you can't find a solar filter to fit your lens, you may want to try the DIY approach.
Sigma has discounted their telephoto zooms, but... with many solar filters now out of stock, a telephoto zoom without a solar filter (or some type of solar protection) will do you no good for the upcoming eclipse.
If you already own a square filter holder, you can sandwich a square piece of film between two piece of stiff cardboard with a holes cut out that match the size of the end of your lens. Otherwise, if you don't own a square filter holder, you can make a cardboard filter holder that slides onto the end of your lens that is held in place by gaffers tape or a rubber band.
If you go the DIY approach, safety first! Be sure to guard against light leaks and ensure that your filter will stay in place throughout the event.
We shared last week that the United States Postal Service has released a special edition stamp featuring a solar eclipse. Unique for a USPS stamp is that it is heat sensitive, revealing a full moon when the heat of a finger is applied to the moon's silhouette.
While the opportunity for photographing a spectacular solar eclipse is coming very soon (August 21), the details shown in the heated stamp's moon will not be available to photograph at that time – the back-lit moon will be totally black. However, tonight's full moon, the last before the upcoming total solar eclipse, provides a great opportunity (weather permitting of course) to capture the image needed to composite into your later-captured solar eclipse images (including even partial solar eclipse images). Compositing the full moon into your solar eclipse images should be relatively easy in post processing, and this strategy provides a great way to differentiate your work from that of other photographers, especially considering that this will likely be the most photographed total solar eclipse in history.
Compositing options include full opacity or at a reduced opacity to mimic the moon's details being very slightly perceptible in the shadowed area within the corona (think of it as a high dynamic range total solar eclipse image). Another option is to create animated GIFs.
Photographing the moon is also great for gaining experience with your solar eclipse gear setup (sans solar ND filter). Testing now means that there is still time to order or rent alternative gear for the big show.
If you don't have the opportunity to photograph tonight's full moon, don't fret – there will be more opportunities coming. Your next chance to capture a full moon image will be September 6, 2017.
Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface. However, the average duration between solar eclipses that are visible from any specific location on earth is roughly 375 years. If you live in the U.S. and miss the upcoming opportunity on August 21, 2017 to see the total solar eclipse, you won't have another opportunity until April 8, 2024 when the path goes from Texas to Maine. And if you miss that one, your next two chances will occur in August 2044 and 2045.
In other words, the upcoming total solar eclipse is so rare that you have few opportunities in your lifetime to see (and photograph) the event in North America. Don't wait! Prepare for the solar eclipse today.
Here's a list of suggested gear for photographing the event:
As to which telephoto lens you should choose, that depends on how large you want the sun to be in your frame. Generally speaking, the longer the focal length, the better. Below you can see how the sun will appear at various full-frame focal lengths.
There are several great options in regards to long focal length lenses, including the following 400mm+ lenses:
** Budget consideration with an MSRP less than $1,500.00 USD.
Of course, the benefits of having a long focal length telephoto lens in your kit extend far beyond the August 21 event.
Total Solar Eclipse Resources
From the Canon Digital Learning Center:
Written by Dave Henry and Ken SkluteRead the entire article on the Canon Digital Learning Center and check out the rest of their solar eclipse articles here.
When preparing to shoot the upcoming solar eclipse, the most important consideration is safety for you, your eyes and your camera equipment. Part of the planning involves not only where will you cover the eclipse from, but also how will you stage it. For most of the country, the eclipse will happen midday, during the hottest month of the year.
The Canon Digital Learning Center has been busy compiling a great set of articles on solar eclipse photography, with two more articles – "Keeping It All In Focus" and "Spectacular Totality" – added recently. See below for the full list of solar eclipse articles available on the CDLC and also check out our review of the Meade Glass White Light Solar Filter.
CDLC Solar Eclipse Photography Articles
You are planning to photograph the eclipse, right? This rare opportunity is coming to most of North America with the path of totality running coast-to-coast through the heart of the USA. The moon is going to cause the sun to disappear and that event is causing solar filters to disappear from retailer inventories. Don't wait to get yours!
Which solar filter should I get for my super telephoto lens? I just posted a review of that answer: The Meade Glass White Light Solar Filter.
You might be surprised at how inexpensive this filter is. The Meade Glass White Light Solar Filter is in stock at B&H | Amazon | Adorama. At least some sizes are in stock – preorder out of stock items immediately to get them in time for the big event.
If you don't own a super telephoto lens, this event is a great excuse to get one (some of these are also becoming scarce). If such a lens is not affordable or does not have long-term use, consider renting one.
Solar Eclipse Photography Resources
Here are some links that you may find useful. The first is NASA’s interactive map (click anywhere on it to get that location’s information). The second is our news feed of useful articles:
NASA: Interactive Solar Eclipse Map
Solar Eclipse Photography Tips (TDP posts)
Space.com's Solar Eclipse Guide
Solar Eclipse Exposure Calculator
American Astronomical Society: How to Shoot Solar-Eclipse Images & Videos
MREclipse.com: Solar Eclipse Photography Guide
NASA: Solar Eclipse Maps
NASA: Eclipse Photography
From the Canon Digital Learning Center:
Written by Dave Henry and Ken Sklute A total solar eclipse is truly amazing and is absolutely the most majestic natural phenomenon for earth! That’s right… for earth! It’s nature’s gift to earth. Nothing beats it. Nothing! The thrill, however, began months ago when you decided that you weren’t going to let this eclipse pass you by. After all, it’s the kind of challenge all photographers live for. The challenge that expands our photography skill sets and allows us to photograph something new.See the entire article on the Canon Digital Learning Center.
Afterwards you’ll sit back and reflect on what it was exactly that enabled you to get such great images and you’ll soon come to the realization that it was all in the planning.
That’s usually the case in almost everything we do.
It was over a hundred years ago that Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” What he meant is that a prepared person, with the right skills at the right place at the right time, can take advantage of an opportunity and create something.
If you have been following our news page/feed, you know that a solar eclipse is coming to the USA on August 21st, just under 2 months away. While nearly 2 months may seem like a long time, solar filters have been in high demand and you can't count on the ones you want being in stock at the last minute. Retailers have purchased a finite amount of stock in anticipation of the demand, but as solar eclipses are so rare, you likely shouldn't assume retailers will refresh inventory of the otherwise-relatively-low-demand items once they run out.
In addition to simply acquiring your solar filter, you should be practicing with your camera, lens, tripod and filter setup well in advance of the big day. That will give you time to determine if your gear and techniques are adequate.
And keep in mind, even if you aren't located in an area allowing for a view of the total eclipse, much of the US will be able to enjoy a strong partial eclipse that's worth viewing and/or photographing.
Solar Eclipse Photography Articles