Well, all the hype is coming down to the wire. The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 is upon us. Many people have been waiting years for this cosmic event which culminates down to just a mere few minutes. A solar eclipse is essentially the moon passing in front of our sun. Think of it as the sun, then the moon, then us, are all in the right alignment. Many centuries ago, early man thought eclipses were the gods turning the sun on and off. Today, we have better science in place to understand what is really happening here.
If you are photographer, having an event like an eclipse that is so rare, you feel compelled to document it with your camera. But, before you take to your camera bag, slap on a bunch of dusty ND filters and call it good, you need to know the right gear that must be in your possession if you're gonna make this work; without having the collateral damage to your camera or eyes. YES! looking at the sun, either directly or through a lens on a DSLR can PERMANENTLY DAMAGE your eyes! Ok lets look at what you have to do....
You want to use a filter that is rated under the ISO 12312-2:2015 standard. You may have seen some retailers on Amazon and other online merch sites selling glasses and camera filters that are NOT safe for direct sun viewing. So make sure this is in check. As for camera filters, I recomend after hearing the advice of eclipse masters Les and Mary Anderson (see their work here), using the Thousand Oaks Optical Solarlite filters (see here).
The filter is covered with ISO 12312-2:2015 film and is 100% for direct sunlight viewing for extended periods of time. The bezel is made of lightweight aluminum and fits very well over most telephoto lenses. And speaking of lenses, you want to be using a telephoto lens. Minimum 200mm (in full frame speak).
Once you get this filter, you should use the felt insert it comes with to "snug" the fit around the end of your telephoto.
You can see in this picture, I placed the felt tape along the entire inside of the bezel. At 3 different points equally spaced all along the bezel, I "doubled up" the tape to add some more snugness and thickness to the felt. You don't want this filter to come off while in use, nor do you want it attached so tight that you cannot get it off your lens when it's time for totality shots, which by the way you CAN shoot full totality WITHOUT a filter. (it's essentially night photography at that point).
For good practice, always attach your filter with the lens pointed up at least 60 degrees to avoid the event it should fall off.
I tested today the Thousand Oaks Optical Filter on my Sigma 150-600 and A7Rii in my front yard. Having the tilt screen of the A7Rii is great to compose shots while not having to get below and behind the camera. At 600mm, 1/500 sec:
You can see the sunspots of sunspot cycle #2671 here. For more information about our sunspot cycles, check out this cool page from NASA here. So that's the basics if you want to partake in this fun event. Just remember the basics:
I am not going to the area of totality for this event unfortunately. I do know of a professional photographer that is going to totality. So feel free to follow him and check out the totality shots!
Enjoy the eclipse!