2017 Solar Eclipse start
2017 Solar Eclipse peak
Well as the saying goes, “better late than never”. I did make some kind of effort to capture the solar eclipse a few weeks ago. There was a lot of hype about this eclipse here in the US particularly because it presented an opportunity to many across the country to witness a full solar eclipse. I wasn’t however as motivated or hyped-up as some. I just didn’t think it was worth the hassle this time around considering my work schedule and the travel to an obscure location and deal with the gridlock and traffic jam. This especially considering that there are anywhere from 2 to 5 solar eclipses around the world each year. I simply do not think it is as rare (or special) an occasion as it is made out to be. I would sooner chase the eclipse at a destination that offers interesting and exciting possibilities for photography.
Canon 7D mark II + EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM + EF Extender 2x III
Nonetheless, I did at least take out my gear for the occasion. The view from Sacramento was of a partial eclipse as we were not in the line of the full shadow. I used my Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II super telephoto lens. I also used the EF 2X Extender III, albeit begrudgingly. I say this because it softens an otherwise perfect lens but I had no choice given that for solar observation you really need 600mm at a bare minimum. Of course I did not forget to use a solar filter. Originally designed for my telescope, it fits perfectly on my canon lens. I would have liked to setup my Computerized German Equatorial Mount for tracking, time lapse and also use my 1000mm telescope. However I really had more pressing things to get to that morning. So I threw my kit in the truck and headed into my morning commute. I managed to step out of my office a couple times throughout the eclipse to capture a few key shots. Here they are.
Did you capture the eclipse? Did you view it?
Mercury Transit of the Sun – May 9, 2016
Can you spot Mercury? In case you missed it there is still about an hour left in today’s celestial event. Today Mercury transits the Sun. The next time this occurs will be in 2019. I did consider setting up the telescope and camera for some close-up shots and even doing a time lapse, however the transit started before sunrise here on the West Coast in California so by the time the sun cleared the horizon, the transit was well under way. Hopefully I’ll have better luck next time in 2019.
None-the-less I had to at least get a few shots for my archives. For this shot I used the Canon 7D Mark II + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the EF 2x Extender III for an effective focal length of 400mm. I also stacked one 10-stop filter and two ND4 neutral density filters in front of my lens and I could still barely look at the sun at f/13. Please always exercise the utmost caution when observing the sun. A split second mistake could lead to instant blindness!
For more information on this event you can check out this NASA Page.
Sun shot 1 – full resolution
As usual this July 4th weekend we had several fires in the area so the skies have been particularly hazy which definitely does not help for any kind of viewing of celestial objects. However this morning I remembered the one object that would need more than hazy skies to obscure was available for observation: The Sun.
After my DSLR focuser support rail modification the two next items high on my list were an electronic focuser and a solar observation filter for the telescope. Today I decided it was time to put them both to work after installing them late this past week. Getting a shot of the sun is harder to acomplish than I thought. My spotting scope does not have a solar filter so I could not aim the telescope. after trying unsuccessfully for about 15 minutes, I took the cover off the spotting scope and placed the back of my hand behind the eyepiece to see if I could bring the sun within the field of view. Luckily I did not burn my hand but do not try this at home…LOL.
Once in range I fiddled around with the fine adjustments on the mount controller until the sun came into view in the eyepiece. The filter is so dark, you cannot see anything until the sun “magically” appears in view. The electronic focuser is completely indispensable, especially with the heavy DSLR attached. The rail works so well you don’t notice it. It will remain on the telescope permanently (Orion should just make all refractors with a rail). I quickly swapped the 7D back in place of the eyepiece and used live view to fine focus and center the sun. I used a thick dark towel over my head and the camera in order to view the camera screen and get as clear a shot as possible. I will most likely get some kind of solar foil blanket to make this process easier. As a result my focus was not spot on, but good enough for a first run. From that point on it was just a matter of taking multiple shots at various exposures.
The 7D was set to manual, AWB, ISO-100, and shutter speeds ranged from 1/2000 to 1/8000 second. Using the RAW files I was able to see the ripples on the surface. They may look like noise but it’s just the enhanced contrast of the surface ripples (note, noise would show up in the dark area of the shot). If anyone has any ideas or tips on how to better process and filter the RAW files please drop a comment below. I’m new to this stuff and I know there are ways to enhance and extract features that would otherwise go unnoticed.
The entire telescope and camera assembly were starting to bake in the sun. In a rush to take it indoors, I forgot to take a shot with the Canon EF 2X Extender. I will post those next time I get around to it. You can read more interesting facts about the Sun here.
Thanks for stopping by.
Solar observation setup
Solar observation setup
Sun shot 2 – full resolution