USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham talks to a Los Angeles astro photographer to get some advice on photographing the August 21 solar eclipse.
LOS ANGELES — Droves of people are in planning stages to get the best shots possible of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
For most of us, getting photos of the sun with our tiny smartphones just won’t cut it. But you know what will? A cool time-lapse of the scene, as we watch the sun slip briefly behind the moon, and day becomes night and then day again.
How to get a great time-lapse shot? You’ve come to the right spot. Especially if you’re interested in doing it on a smartphone or with the tiny GoPro camera.
You’ve seen the time-lapse shots often in movies, in opening sequences when the world seems to speed by, clouds move to a different rhythm and people are running, not walking, through the streets, at ultra high speeds. For a crash course, check out the opening of Netflix’s House of Cards.
Time-lapses look cool, and are really easy to do.
Let’s start with your smartphone.
Both recent iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones have a time-lapse feature within the camera app.
Reader alert: Experts say you need to put a solar filter over the smartphone during the eclipse to protect the image sensor, but Apple says not to worry. For a wide shot of the scene, in which the sun itself is a tiny, minor character, you’re fine.
On the iPhone, the time-lapse feature is at the tail left, after Slo-Mo.
To make a great time-lapse, you need two important tools, a tripod and an adapter to fit the phone onto the tripod. You can buy a tripod for as little as $25, and the adapter for less than $10.
This is important because your shot will need to record for at least five minutes, and you can’t possibly hold the camera steady for that length of time. Every movement you make will be magnified several times. The last thing you want to show anyone is a shaky video. (We recommend shooting for at least 20 minutes for the eclipse, which in turn will give you about a 1-2 minute video. Start recording ten minutes before it’s about to start, let it roll during the eclipse and afterwards, and you’ll get a great presentation of day to night and back to day. Plus all the revelers watching with you.)
On eclipse day, beyond…