Plan for the Solar Eclipse, Aug 21, 2017

This is a guest post by Photofocus writer Levi Sim who’s also a professional photographer from Portland Oregon.  Click to see more of his stories.


When the sun and the moon and the earth line up with the moon in the middle it makes a solar eclipse. This happens from time to time, but since the moon is so small, you have to be in just the right place on Earth to see a total eclipse where the sun is completely obscured. I saw a partial eclipse in 2014, and that was incredible. But our American readers are in for a real treat because next August 21st there will be a total eclipse in much of the United States. Thanks to a note from my friends at the Eastern Idaho Photographic Society, we’ve got a head start on planning for what to shoot during the eclipse.

The Map in the cover photo is from Xavier Jubier’s terrific map, which we’ll discuss more below.

What to Photograph?

Unless you’ve got a very long lens, making a picture of the eclipse itself probably won’t be that interesting. In a picture, the sun and moon look very small, so I wouldn’t suggest the eclipse being the subject of the picture for most of us. I suggest you find a subject that will benefit from being photographed during an eclipse.

I shot this with a 75mm lens on a GH4, so it’s like a 150mm lens on a full frame. It’s not very big, and it’s not very interesting.

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All Natural Certified Organic HDR

If you’re near the center of the strip that will be in total blackout, then the sun is supposed to be very dark, maybe giving only as much light as a bright full moon. That means the difference between light and dark will be significantly reduced. That may mean it’ll be like making HDR photographs without using HDR software.

As you plan what to photograph, consider what subjects might be good. Is there some architecture that might be stunning? Perhaps a natural feature nearby, like a striking rock or mountain? Would you do well with a model to pose for you? Is there a particular client who would love to be photographed during a once-in-lifetime event?

I made this portrait during the last eclipse and the sun was merely darkened from my position. That darker sky made it easy to make a portrait with balanced light in the background and on the subject with a flash.

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Tools for Planning

Here are a couple of good resources for planning your shoot during the eclipse.

Photopills  This app will help you plan where the sun will be in relation to landmarks on any day. It costs a few dollars, but I find it really useful. I reviewed it in this article.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris  This site is similar to Photopills and will help you plan any photograph.

www.Eclipse2017.org  This site has all kinds of helpful information about the eclipse.

Xavier Jubier’s Map  There’s a search box in the top left corner of this map. Just enter your city and it’ll tell you all kinds of information about the eclipse in relation to you. This is a really cool tool.

Thanks to this map, I know I’d better go visit my brother-in-law’s family in Newport, OR if I want to see the total eclipse. Now, to find something there to photograph…

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