Partial Eclipse, August 21, 2017

We decided to photograph the partial (85%) solar eclipse near Washington, DC, on August 21, 2017. While we knew much better photos would be readily available, we like to try to improve our camera skills by attempting technically difficult tasks. This proved to be a difficult task!

We set up two cameras for the eclipse: (1) a Canon 50D with a 70-200mm f/4 lens at 200mm; and (2) an Olympus TG-4 point-and-shoot set at a wide angle. The 200mm focal length on the Canon was — at the same time — too short and too long. It was too short because the sun was relatively small in the photographs. It was too long because the sun moved rapidly across the field-of-view requiring frequent shot re-composition. The metering on the Olympus could not capture the sun without blowing out the highlights (we probably needed to spend more time reading the manual).

It was also difficult to focus the Canon using live-view because the sun impeded our vision. We tried to cover the display and our heads with a black cloth but that did not help that much and mainly caused our glasses to steam up. We finally wound up focusing using the viewfinder. Even though we used gaffer tape to attach an ISO-certified solar filter sheet in front of the lens, this seemed risky (we taped one “lens” of a pair of solar eyeglasses in front of the Olympus lens).

Since the sky was partly cloudy, we had to time our photos to avoid periods when the sun was blocked by the clouds. Given the technical difficulties and our fairly low expectations, we got several good photos. Here are a few of them.

This is a picture of our setup taken just before the start of the eclipse.

All of the photos in the video were taken with the Canon 50D.