Our Solar Eclipse Adventure and photography lessons learned

***Pictures at end so you have to read my post to get to the awesomeness.

If you saw my post on august you would of seen my post on extensive prepping for the eclipse to cover the experience as best as I could with research and testing.

My dad invited us up to see the eclipse with them at a local B&B in Hiawassee Ga. We left early in the morning at 5am expecting there to be heavy traffic. That was not the case at that time. So we got there by 7:30am. We found a patch out back from every one where we would not disturb the other guests and set up our tripods. To figuring out where the sun would be by a star app I had that let us fast forward time ranges. That was a life saver in planning where we were going to be.  So we setup and were ready to go. I had My Canon 60D with a 60 year old Vivitar 200mm f5.6 pentax lens with a 3d printed solar filter holder and LCD screen hood.

The whole thing kind of felt like before I shoot a wedding anticipation of getting the shot you want also excitement of experiencing something not to many get to see.  I have done Lunar eclipses before but this is so much different.

First and foremost was the worry about the kids possibly starring at the sun. However my dad set up his telescope and reflecting plate up for them Truly out of all the ways that you could watch it that was the best and most detailed for the partial phases.


What was the neat thing I think is the over all light.  It was interesting it felt like golden hour as it got darker with warm light however the shadows got sharper instead of more defused. Of course thats because the light source got smaller. I then started searching for the crescents that were created from the pin holes in light from the trees. Theses were fun to play with on the ground and on people. 🙂


As it got closer to totality the air got cooler and cooler. it started about 90. I would say by the time of totality it was near 70.  About 30 min before totality the crickets started chirping like it was night time. It was very interesting.

Then the moment of totality it quickly goes from sunlight to dark in only a few seconds. Then you are over whelmed by the sight. You can hear people cheering around you, yelling, honking horns, fire works. Every one at one single moment across the area is in aw and amazement of what is happening. It is not a single persons experience its every one all around you experiencing the same amazement at the same time. Its magical.  

Photographing the eclipse is a challenging feat to accomplish especially when you change from regular to totality.

I would suggest the following:  

  • The Key is to practice and research.  Learn the exposures.
  • Setup and test early 
  • Put tape over the eye piece so you don’t accidentally look.
  • Use solar filter with live view
  • During totality take out of live view and shoot without filter. Then after put back on the filter and switch back to live view. 
  • Slow down and think during change in phases.
  • Bracket exposures for totality. Target Totality Corona 0.2 with 1 ev brackets I did 7. This failed on me will say why below.  http://www.mreclipse.com/SEphoto/image/SE-Exposure1w.GIF
  • This is the main lesson I learned. *** Change over to totality settings 2+ min before totality to allow for error.
  • Also NEVER no mater how much you trust it look through the view finder with the solar filter on.  I used live view. 

What happened with me is everything was going fine until I went to make sure i was lined up, had switched to my custom setting then switched on bracketing. I did this right at the totality shift hence the 2 min warning part. I have practiced this many times. What i did not take into account was that my m42 to EOS adapter the lens would start unscrewing right when I was adjusting.  Then the tripod shifted skyward. I scrambled to get it pointing at the sun again then realized the filter was still on. My dad calmed me down, talked me through it and I was able to get it back on aim. However at this point I had bracketing on, but instead of custom is was in bulb mode. So when I started to press my shutter release it did not sound right.  I saw the pictures were blown out and I was at 400iso and so I put at 100iso and kept firing while watching the eclipse with my eyes instead of through the camera. Now ay you can explain it pictures can not capture it fully. I just kept clicking.  I did miss about 10-20 seconds of the beginning with my own eyes which I will never get back. However even since I had my settings messed up me constantly clicking the shutter release caused the pictures to turn out very nicely.. Yes I could not do the HDR I wanted to but I think they are lovely.  I watched the rest of the totality.

After totality I went to take a quick look and when I did I jumped up and down yelling I got it because I got the shot I wanted all along. 

Equipment used and 3d printed parts.

First lets talk about the 3d Printed parts.  You can buy or make some of theses also.

  1. Solar filter holder for diffrent sizes. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2376354
  2. Solar finder. Use this instead of looking at the sun even with glasses. I tried this is safer and better.  🙂 Not wear sunglasses when looking at the range finder. The reflection is bright.  https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2469804
  3. Solar hood for my LCD screen. I will need to find this file. 

Now Lets look at the photography equipment used.

  1. Canon 60D:
  2. Pentax M42 – EOS Adapter https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1009420-REG/fotodiox_m42_eos_fl_dc_p_adapter_for_m42_lens.html
  3. Old tripod from the 60s
  4. 40+ year old Vivitar 300mm f5.6 lense pentax m42
  5. Cactus V6 MKII radio trigger https://www.cactus-image.com/v6ii.html with cable release cable. 

Don’t forget to have fun.

Bottom line I highly recommend if you ever have a chance go to the zone of totality in a solar eclipse. Next one is in 2024 so get prepping. Next one after that is 2048.  Totality is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Don’t focus on the photography that is secondary. focus on spending it with Family, friends, and new friends you meet there, and family.  You all are going to experience one of the amazing sights ever seen on the earth.  


Preparing for the Total Eclipse – Safety and Photography

Total eclipses are not necessarily rare when they are rare is when they are over large populated areas especially over the continental united states. While most of the United states will be seeing the crescent shape of the sun of viewed though glasses or projection methods. There is a thin strip through the united states around 70 miles wide that will be in what is called totality. This is when the moon completely blocks the sun and we see the suns corona. During this 1-2.5 min  of totality you still can damage your eyes.  Your vision can still be damaged by UV rays at totality. During the whole eclipse you better have you solar glasses or pin hole projectors on. If not your vision may be permanently damaged. This is where it gets scary with younger kids and people in general. Even in totality it is not recommended to stare at the sun. So do what you parents told you as a kid don’t look at the sun.   

Credit: NASA

My family is going to be going to the path of totality. It is only about 40 miles from me. What I am scared of is the risk that there will be to non understanding children.  I have some ways I am planing to go about this. While glasses are good and all. They are not 100%.  So I don’t want to really give my kids the impression that is an option. So what I have done is generated alternative safer ways for kids to view the eclipse or sun in general. 

  1. View the eclipse though Live view on my camera. What live view is is basic the view finder through the lcd screen meaning optical you have no line of sight to the sun optically directly.
  2. Use a telescope reflector plate – This is a plate you put at the end of your telescope that projects the sun on it that you can view safely. 
  3. Use a pin hole projector. – You can see the sun if you punch a hole in a pice of paper or card stock or something and put a pice of paper on the ground and you can see the sun as a circle of light on the ground. As the eclipse happens you will see the eclipse live on the ground.

Some safe ways to view the eclipse can be had at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-viewing

For Photography I have always wanted to shoot an Solar eclipse. I have done lunar eclipses before. I wanted to experience a solar event and shoot it.

2008 Lunar Eclipse I photographed

To take pictures of a solar eclipse research needs to be done and practice. First difficulty I found was getting solar filters.  They were sold out every where and manufactures could not produce them quick enough.  After a few try to get one that screwed onto the lens and canceled orders because of stock.  I remberd I had a 3D printer. 🙂 So I went to work on getting solar film that was almost just as difficult. I ordered film from 4 different places 2 of them got canceled because even though they said they had it in stock they did not.  I went and spent over 100$ for the film and shipping to get it here before the eclipse. I ordered it from 2 places just in case and suprisngly I got it. I went on thing verse and was able to find most of the sizes of filter holder for the lenses we would be using.

58mm,63mm(had to scale),72mm and I made the filters.


Next step was testing and setup selection. I do not have the best lenses or equipment but I will make it work. What I have decided on using is the following.


-Canon 60D, T5i, 20D, The 60D and T5i will handle 2x 300mm lenses and I may use the 20D for a wide angle shot of me and the sun during the eclipse. We will see. Main focus will be the 60D.
-Lenses: Vivitar 300mm f5.6 Pentax lens with m42-EOS adaptor from the 60s, Canon 70-300mm f3.5-5.6
-Various tripods that are not great:
-Cactus 6v MKII triller used as shutter release
-Magic lanter firmware for advanced bracketing

Next was testing setup. What I found was 300mm with a crop sense trying to line up the sun seems to be safest setup. I had a 3x teleconverter however I can never line up the sun correctly.

I found out that you should never target the sun with you looking in the suns direction. First time I did this is a used solar glasses to get it in the ballpark then live view. I started seeing spots when flipping between the glasses and the camera because I was looking in the suns direction and wasn’t a good or safe way to do it. What I found is you can print or make whats called a solar finder for a camera. I found this is the best way to get in the ball park. However if it is made of white material wear at least sun glasses to help with the reflection.

With this you sort of treat it like a sun dial you aim tell you have no more shadow gets you in the ball park.

Next was testing. First of all I had to find a day it was not raining. I was able to test some during my lunch break. The results seem good I even saw sunspots.  I think I am ready for most of the eclipse. My only worry is during totality I hope I am ready and there is no clouds. Practice Practice Practice. I am going to get all my focuses down today and to marrow and mark focus points on my lenses.  

Sun Picture is at 300mm, f5.6, 1/60, 640iso. The suns moving and you have a long sense general rule of thumb is to have the shutter speed faster than your focal length but a solar filter blocks 99.9999% of the light from the sun so I find it needs a tad more exposure.  

New Exposure taken today.  Its neat how the location of the sunspots has changed because we are moving.  around. 🙂


Remember to be safe have fun experience a for some once in a life time event. Ohh one more thing DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN DURING NON TOTALITY. Even with glasses just glance. 

~ Brian Hursey

Disclamer:  I am not a profesional in solar safety nor am I responsible for damage to your eyes. Do your research deeply prior to the eclipse for safety.