Photographers gear up for August solar eclipse

The Aug. 21 solar eclipse may become the most photographed in history, with tens of millions across North America attempting to capture the long-awaited event with everything from high-performance film and digital single-lens reflex cameras — DSLRs — to inexpensive point-and-shoots.

And in the age of smartphones, when taking quick snapshots is as simple as reaching in purse or pocket, the urge to capture an event as heavily publicized as the August eclipse will be irresistible to many.

But professionals have a few words of strongly urged advice: never, ever point any type of camera, telescope or binoculars at the sun, even during a nearly full eclipse, without a certified solar filter firmly attached to the front of the lens.

The only exception is during the brief period in a swath of the country when the moon completely blocks out the sun’s dazzling brilliance. For the Aug. 21 eclipse, that fleeting opportunity will last just two- to two-and-a-half minutes along the 70-mile-wide path of totality that stretches from the coast of Oregon to the coast of South Carolina.

All of North America will see at least a partial solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, and a 70-mile-wide swath of the country from coast to coast will get a total eclipse.

Michael Zeiler, www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com

And even in the path of totality, filters are a must during the partial phases before and after totality when the moon covers some, but not all, of the sun’s visible surface.

“IT IS NEVER SAFE TO LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT PROPER EYE PROTECTION WHEN ANY PART OF IT IS VISIBLE BEHIND THE MOON!” camera-maker Canon states on its eclipse photography website, using red, boldface, capital letters.

“THIS ALSO INCLUDES NOT LOOKING THROUGH YOUR CAMERA’S VIEWFINDER WHEN PHOTOGRAPHING THE ECLIPSE – USE A SOLAR FILTER ON THE FRONT OF THE LENS, AND LOOK THROUGH YOUR LCD SCREEN INSTEAD OF THE VIEWFINDER!”

As amateur astronomers and even school kids know, unfiltered sunlight passing through even a small lens can quickly ignite a leaf or a sheet of paper. Without a proper filter, a camera’s lenses will intensify the sun’s light to extreme levels that will quickly destroy internal components.

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