The eclipse may be safely photographed provided that the above precautions are followed. Almost any kind of camera with manual controls can be used to capture this rare event. However, a lens with a fairly long focal length is recommended to produce as large an image of the Sun as possible. A standard 50 mm lens yields a minuscule 0.5 mm image, while a 200 mm telephoto or zoom produces a 1.9 mm image. A better choice would be one of the small, compact catadioptic or mirror lenses which have become widely available in the past ten years. The focal length of 500 mm is most common among such mirror lenses and yields a solar image of 4.6 mm.  Adding 2x tele- converter will produce a 1000 mm focal length which doubles the Sun's size to 9.2 mm. Focal lengths in excess of 1000 mm usually fall within the realm of amateur telescopes. If full disk eclipse photography on 35 mm format is planned, the focal length of the telescope or lens must be 2600 mm or less. Longer focal lengths will only permit photography of a portion of the Sun's disk. For any particular focal length, the diameter of the Sun's image is approximately equal to the focal length divided by 109.

A mylar or glass solar filter must be used on the lens at all times for both photography and safe viewing. Such filters are most easily obtained through manufacturers and dealers listed in Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines. These filters typically attenuate the Sun's visible and infrared energy by a factor of 100,000. However, the actual filter attenuation and choice of ISO film speed will play critical roles in determining the correct photographic exposure. A low to medium speed film is recommended (ISO 50 to 100) since the Sun gives off abundant light. The easiest method for determining the correct exposure is accomplished by running a calibration test on the uneclipsed Sun. Shoot a roll of film of the mid-day Sun at a fixed aperture [f/8 to f/16] using every shutter speed between 1/1000 and 1/4 second. After the film is developed, the best exposures are noted and may be used to photograph the partial and annular phases since the Sun's surface brightness remains constant throughout the eclipse.

Another interesting way to photograph the eclipse is to record its various phases all on one frame. This is accomplished by using a stationary camera capable of making multiple exposures (check the camera instruction manual). Since the Sun moves through the sky at the rate of 15 degrees per hour, it slowly drifts through the field of view of any camera equipped with a normal focal length lens (i.e. - 35 to 50 mm). If the camera is oriented so that the Sun drifts along the frame's diagonal, it will take over three hours for the Sun to cross the field of a 50 mm lens. The proper camera orientation can be determined through trial and error several days before the eclipse. This will also insure that no trees or buildings obscure the camera's view during the eclipse. The Sun should be positioned along the eastern (left) edge or corner of the viewfinder shortly before the eclipse begins. Exposures are then made throughout the eclipse at five minute intervals. The camera must remain perfectly rigid during this period and may be to clamped to a wall or fence post since tripods are easily bumped. The final photograph will consist of a string of Suns, each showing a different phase of the eclipse.

Finally, an eclipse effect which is easily captured with point-and-shoot or automatic cameras should not be overlooked. During the eclipse, the ground under nearby shade trees is covered with small images of the crescent Sun. The gaps between the tree leaves act like pinhole cameras and each one projects its own tiny image of the Sun. The effect can be duplicated by forming a small aperture with one's hands and watching the ground below. The pinhole camera effect becomes more prominent with increasing eclipse magnitude. Virtually any camera can be used to photograph the phenomenon, but automatic cameras must have their flashes turned off since this will obliterate the pinhole images.

For more information on eclipse photography, observations and eye safety, see FURTHER READING in the BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Next section