Photographing the Great American Eclipse


I initially wasn't feeling very inspired to photograph the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 since it would mostly be a technical shot, but knowing how rare an occurrence it was, I decided I would at least commit to photographing during the short period of totality when no solar filters are required, and when the drama of the eclipse would be at its peak.

The setup was pretty straight-forward.  I used my Canon 5Ds (for the 50MP full-frame sensor) and my Canon 100-400mm lens with a 2X teleconverter.  I used my Really Right Stuff tripod with a 40lb Pelican Case weighing it down to make it rock solid and stable.

Other considerations included:

  • Setting White Balance to 'Daylight'
  • Enabling mirror lockup
  • Setting bracketing to 7 frames (1 stop increments)
  • Using a remote cable release
  • Manually focusing the lens
  • Turning off Image Stabilization
  • Putting Drive in High Speed Continuous

From there, the only tricky part was determining a mid-point exposure to work from.  For this, I relied on a table that can be found at the Mr. Eclipse Exposure Guide page.  For me, the right settings to center my bracketed shots around were ISO 200, 1/100 second, and f/16.

I did very little to the images during post-processing.  Basically, I applied a camera profile, lens correction, removed chromatic aberration, slightly reduced Highlights, and used split toning to add a slight purplish-blue tint to the highlights (since this more accurately represented what I saw with the naked eye.


As much as I enjoyed photographing the eclipse, the experience truly is about seeing it first hand and paying attention to the changes to light, temperature, shadows, sounds -- and of course, sharing that experience with those around you.  I tried not to let my camera get in the way of just being there in the moment.  Once I'd focused and composed the shot, I was basically just holding down the button on my intervalometer to fire off continuous shots throughiout the roughly 105 seconds we had in totality.

When the sun first re-emerged on the other side of the moon, I took about 4 more exposures to capture the "diamond ring" effect and then turned my camera off, put my solar glasses back on, and marveled at what had just happened.


If I get another chance to witness a total eclipse, I'm a little torn about what I'll do.  On one hand, I might just leave my camera at home entirely.  On the other hand, an eclipse provides a unique opportunity to create on-of-a-kind images that tell a deeper story.  I might decide to scout a location and plan a shot that juxtaposes the eclipsed sun in an interesting way.

One other resource worth mentioning was Canon's Guide to Eclipse Photography, which has many Canon-specific recommendations for how to prepare for and shoot an eclipse.