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Getting ready for Eclipse 2024

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#1 Rand Barthel

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 02:55 PM

I am planning to travel to Arkansas, or perhaps somewhere else on the path of totality, to witness the 2024 solar eclipse that will be going across the United States. I believe in the "Seven Ps" (Proper Prior Planning Prevents ****-Poor Performance) and want to (1) have the right equipment to photograph the eclipse; and (2) Have my workflow nailed so I don't spend the 2-ish minutes of totality struggling to make technology work.  In fact, ideally I would like to automate the photography so I can enjoy the eclipse experience undistracted.

I have a little bit of deep-sky AP experience, but have never done anything with solar.  I don't want to invest a lot of money in specialized solar telescopes/hardware unless I have to.

Perhaps some of you eclipse "hands" can answer:

 

1. is my goal of automated photography realistic?

 

2. What gear would you bring?  

 

3. How should I prepare for the event, so I can have confidence that the technology will work for me on the Big Day?


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#2 Dynan

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:10 PM

After seeing my first total in 2017, I can say no technology (as yet) beats the 3D-ness of the actual Moon/corona, I agree that it would be nice to have a personal recording, but you'll watch it reminiscing about the actual view.

 

Best of Luck...and most importantly...Clear Skies...


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#3 endlessky

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:35 PM

I don't have much experience photographying solar eclipses. Unfortunately the only total solar eclipse I witnessed was more than 20 years ago and back then I had a film SLR camera.

I was struggling with the camera quite a lot and I know for sure I didn't enjoy the eclipse as I am sure I would have had, if I had simply viewed it.

 

So, automation is definitely the way to go. You don't need long exposures, so a star tracker is not necessary. I would leave the laptop home, as well (less things you depend on, less things can go wrong in the moment of need). I would simply bring a tripod, my DSLR, a long focal length lens (300mm or more, if you have it) and an intervalometer to automate the sequence. With the intervalometer you can choose exposure time, delay between exposures and number of exposures, so you are pretty much set. I would probably change the exposure time as the Sun gets closer to totality, so you can expose enough for the Sun's Corona. Also, bring spare batteries (both for the camera and for the intervalometer).

 

Obviously the usual rules apply: do not stare directly at the Sun, expecially through your camera/lens/telescope. Use appropriate filters for most of the initial and final phases of the eclipse, removing them only for the totality phase.



#4 AstroBrett

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:36 PM

I did the same thing for the 2017 eclipse.  Here's what I can recommend:

 

1. Don't wed yourself to one location, and don't make reservations anywhere. The weather will drive your location. I relocated four times before I managed to hit the sweet spot on the weather, and despite the trouble, it was worth it to not lose any frames from beginning to end due to clouds. It wont due you any good to have a great location, but no visibility. Espenak's eclipse atlas was worth every penny to zero in on potential sites.

 

2. Get there the night before at a MINIMUM. Take a hand transit so you can shoot azimuths and elevations to ensure a clear field of view. Get set up and polar aligned as early as possible, and practice the exact sequence as many times as you can. If you think you will nail it on the first try, you will be mistaken. If you are going to fully automate, you'll need a means to set times to within a fraction of a second, and to access online ephemerides or have an application to calculate the exact timing at your location. A GPS or Espenak's atlas are essential tools. 

 

3. Take a backup for as many things as you can, and way more batteries than you can ever imagine needing. You may end up in a location with no electricity. I had NO amenities in 2017.

 

4. Don't underestimate how many people will show up, and make sure your field of view will not be blocked. Another reason to get there early. The primitive site in the National Forest where we were was set up for 20. By the night before, it had 350, and another 100 or so came right before the eclipse.  My friends that left immediately after sat in traffic for seven hours. I stayed put, and we drove straight out about four hours later using back roads and Espenak's atlas.

 

5. As far as preparation … practice, practice, practice, and when you are sure you have your plan perfected, practice some more. Think about what frames and exposures you want, when you want them, and how you are going to rapidly change settings. Eclipse software can help a lot here, although I did it manually myself. But I will tell you, the time passes way faster than you think.

 

6. Don't get so focused on grabbing images, to not take a moment and observe the eclipse visually. I had a separate scope set up for that, and one for public outreach.

 

7. Don't discount the other wonders of the eclipse. I will have a separate video camera set up to record peoples reactions and sounds, the shadow bands, and data loggers for sky brightness and temperature. There is a lot to see and do. Think it through carefully.

 

8. Research on the web other's experiences, and their recommendations. It was invaluable guidance to me. I imagine it will be for you as well. 

 

9. As for equipment, set up what you have and try a series of shots at the same time of day and solar elevation. Get familiar with various camera settings, and what your equipment can and can't do. Let those experiences guide you as to what you might need, or things you might want to change. I had a wide angle lens tracking the Sun and Corona, and two scopes of 400mm and 600mm focal lengths for the eclipse. Don't forget you need solar filters for everything, including finders, and the filters need to be both secure, and easy to remove as you will need to pop them off during totality and slip them back on near the end. I had to train my wife to help do it since you need to be quick. And don't attempt too much.  And most importantly, be prepared for every contingency. A lot of things will pop up during your practice runs. Have your backup gear well organized and be sure you know where everything is. Drill yourself. If you spend 1 minute looking for a critical replacement during totality, it is a big deal. And don't forget to refocus right before totality, since focus may get a bit soft as the gear heats up and expands. You don't want fuzzy proms or chromosphere, or a blurred corona.

 

10. Be prepared for a LOT of public interest, and be ready to do some outreach. I did several video interviews, answered innumerable questions, and shared my scopes with scores of people. Bring a stool or tool box for kids to stand on and look. Their sense of awe and amazement is as priceless as the eclipse itself. We ended up setting up a group e-mail to share eclipse experiences, and that went on for several months after the event.  

 

Good luck. Send me a message offline if you have any questions.

 

Brett


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#5 John Miele

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:37 PM

After witnessing my first and only total solar eclipse in 2017, I would never take my eyes off any future eclipse I am privileged to see for even 1 second if I could help it. I agonized whether I should  try to set up my cameras and telescopes and image the eclipse. In the end, all the cameras were left at home and I am 1000% glad I went that way. The sight is just too special and so transient...let the images download through your eyes and ears and skin into your memory. Sheesh...I sound like some sort of hippie! But believe me, I am a straight arrowed conservative structural engineer by profession. A by the facts kind of guy. And yet that eclipse hit me like a ton of bricks in a way I cannot even describe. If you can automate the imaging that would be great. But do not let cameras distract you in any way during the event...just my 2pence worth...John


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#6 vsteblina

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:47 PM

I did the same thing for the 2017 eclipse.  Here's what I can recommend:.....................................

 

1. Don't wed yourself to one location, and don't make reservations anywhere. The weather will drive your location. I relocated four times before I managed to hit the sweet spot on the weather, and despite the trouble, it was worth it to not lose any frames from beginning to end due to clouds. It wont due you any good to have a great location, but no visibility. Espenak's eclipse atlas was worth every penny to zero in on potential sites..................................................

 

4. Don't underestimate how many people will show up, and make sure your field of view will not be blocked. Another reason to get there early. The primitive site in the National Forest where we were was set up for 20. By the night before, it had 350, and another 100 or so came right before the eclipse.  My friends that left immediately after sat in traffic for seven hours. I stayed put, and we drove straight out about four hours later using back roads and Espenak's atlas.

 

I disagree with the first statement, because I agree with the fourth statement!!

 

I retired from the Forest Service, BLM, and NPS after 30 years.  So I pretty much know all the out-of-the-way spots in the western US.

 

I was stunned at the traffic for the eclipse on the Malheur National Forest!!!  I was a good thing that I paid a small rural school several hundred dollars to camp on their football field for the eclipse.  I realized that National Forest thing wasn't going to work when I stopped at the Supervisor's Office and heard the phones ringing a MONTH before the eclipse asking about places to camp.

 

The nearest large city to John Day is at least six to seven hours away!!!

 

Anyway, I would find a place to sit for the eclipse and pray for good weather.

 

THEN, if forecast looks bad I would be ready to high-tail for parts with clear weather.

 

Given the crowds in the west for 2017 eclipse I suspect it will be much worse in 2024. 

 

BTW....a few places that I thought would be totally packed ended up fairly empty on public land.  Not sure why people
 



#7 AstroBrett

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 03:58 PM

Vsteblina,

 

Let me clarify, I worked in Idaho, Montana, and Idaho and if I had been in the west, I would not have worried about it. But Rand is in Massachusetts, and there were more people mobile on the interstate than the entire populations of several of the western states. The other point I would make is out west you have clear skies the majority of the time, but the opposite situation prevails east of the Mississippi. My whole point is that the majority of my friends that preselected a spot well in advance were disappointed when it was clouded over, and if you can't see the eclipse, what is the point of the great location? So, my advice is only relevant for the eastern US, and thanks for pointing that out.

 

Brett  



#8 vsteblina

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 04:14 PM

I missed the 1978 eclipse due to bad weather.  I watched the street lights go on and then off two minutes later.  Unfortunately, I had not planned on being mobile.  That was in north Idaho.

 

I felt pretty comfortable in eastern Oregon in 2017 that it wasn't going to cloud up on me.

 

After 2017, I suspect it will be a total mess along the path in 2024.  Unfortunately, the 2024 path is outside my "comfort" zone.  Right now I am looking at Texas where I don't have a clue....or my wife's friends property in Illinois, where at least I have a place to stay.

 

Great write up and recommendations......thanks.



#9 Hank Molesky

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 04:44 PM

After witnessing my first and only total solar eclipse in 2017, I would never take my eyes off any future eclipse I am privileged to see for even 1 second if I could help it. I agonized whether I should  try to set up my cameras and telescopes and image the eclipse. In the end, all the cameras were left at home and I am 1000% glad I went that way. The sight is just too special and so transient...let the images download through your eyes and ears and skin into your memory. Sheesh...I sound like some sort of hippie! But believe me, I am a straight arrowed conservative structural engineer by profession. A by the facts kind of guy. And yet that eclipse hit me like a ton of bricks in a way I cannot even describe. If you can automate the imaging that would be great. But do not let cameras distract you in any way during the event...just my 2pence worth...John

Seeing the 2017 eclipse without imaging was an experience of a lifetime. I did use the solar glasses until it was safe to look at the sun. Also there were people doing projections which was nice. My wife and I trailered our motorcycle to the Nantahala gorge and rented a cabin. On eclipse day we ended up riding to some church a few miles from Deals Gap to witness the greatest eclipse we ever saw. Not a cloud in the sky. NASA was setup somewhere about 20 miles from where we were and had clouds blocking most of the show. Also, there were so many images to look at afterwards. I know, it’s always nice to take the photos ourselves so we can brag about Our awesome photo’s!

Best......Hank


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#10 rblackadar

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 04:46 PM

In 2017 I brought two cameras to the site: one on the telescope mount, and also a video camera set up on a tripod. The latter I set going and left on -- to record not the sun, but myself and my observer neighbors, and the overall experience. This video turned out to be much the more valuable to me, in retrospect. Where I was, it was very much a social event; other people *increased* my enjoyment. (Up until the long slow drive home, that is. It helped that the traffic jam was in a place with beautiful scenery.)

 

As for the camera on the scope mount, if you're going to do it, I agree with those who advocate automating as much as possible. I don't think a laptop is a bad idea, if you can bring a cheap one that you don't have to worry too much about. It would allow you to bracket exposures, for example, without having to mess with the camera. Program it into (e.g.) BackyardEOS and forget it, enjoy the experience through eye and/or telescope. Allow me to add one caveat from sad (though not very sad)  experience: make sure ahead of time that your camera is focused and that it stays that way!


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#11 Hank Molesky

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 04:47 PM

Eclipse day

Attached Thumbnails

  • 54135BE2-CE78-4D6D-BA2F-592865C06ED0.jpeg


#12 astrodom

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 04:49 PM

Hi,  I agree with most of the advice, and I will say that visually, the eclipse is unbelievable, and you will want to spend as much time as possible just looking up.  

You can either use a timer or a laptop with a program like sequence generator pro, and have it control  your camera automatically at different exposure levels.  Then start the exposures before totality and during totality, just pop off the solar film and put it back on once the eclipse ends.  This worked well for me in 2017 and I didn't miss any of the eclipse visually.  By the time 2024 rolls around, you will probably have even more technology to automate your process.   Best of luck on the future event!


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#13 Rand Barthel

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 06:26 PM

Wow, what great advice everybody! Thank you thank you thank you.

 

I was envisioning some kind of personal R & D program leading up to this, where I would premeditate things like exposures, and do lots of dress rehearsals with the equipment to get so I can do it in my sleep.  And spares for everything.  My DSLR is a Nikon D5000, so I will research what is available by way of control software for that.  I have a simple intervalometer, but it's too simple for the choreographed sequence of changes I'll want for this. Also my longest lens is 200 mm, so I'll want a longer lens. And a mount that can track the sky with a camera.  My initial feeling is to not bring the 8" SCT. That sucker is big and heavy.  Maybe a second mount for the 71mm refractor for visual. That's something I want anyway for general grab and go.



#14 RobertPettengill

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 07:39 PM

You can fully automate with this software. http://xjubier.free....y_Software.html I found partial automation to work well for me in Wyoming. A fixed exposure during the partial phases. After removing the solar filter for totality, I used my camera’s built in 9 exposure HDR shutter sequence during totality. My Sonys have it and others may as well.

 

Mobility is key. Weather odds favor clearer skies in Mexico and south Texas. Here is an account of my experience in 2017, http://astronomy.rob...ipseImages.html

 

Here is an animated time lapse of some of these images

 

EclipseTimeLapse1080.gif

of course the corona didn’t move that way, but a fun way to present the data. With the totality data and an image from a,second camera stacked into a single image

37021379422_5cab816e0f_k_d.jpg


Edited by RobertPettengill, 22 July 2020 - 11:07 PM.

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#15 swmavocet

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 10:59 PM

If this would be your first TSE , I suggest snapping a few photos to show friends but not spending more that a few moments fiddling with programs, equipment, changing, etc.  At 4.5 minutes, this one will be quite a bit longer than 2017 so there will be even more time to savor the views never possible even with expensive earth-bound solar telescopes.  If the practice and trials with automation pay off, sure try that but leave it alone ...maybe positioned 100 yards away so you're not tempted to peak at the progress during totality and "adjust" it if it wanders away from what you intended.  Make it an all or nothing attempt.

 

In Mexico (1991) I captured a few amateur telephoto photos but I'd certainly trade those and more for even a few seconds back of that astounding 6+ minutes.  I didn't have binoculars or a telescope so the memories were only collected naked eye.  But even 26 years later, they are there in a special place I go to from time to time (like as I'm writing this).  In 2017, at the last minute I decided to try to view with my unguided C8 I rarely use.  Yes I was able to center the corona in the eyepiece for a few seconds and the views were spectacular of the fine threadlike field line details next to the moon/sun black disk.  I have not seen a photo anywhere near  what I saw there and doubt one exists.  My regret is not being more prepared and practicing so I was ready to maximize time at the eyepiece.

 

For 2024, I plan to take a lounge chair or blanket, binoculars, and maybe a small scope I'm well-practiced with a motor drive to follow the sun.   I'll let the pros take the photos and see if any compare to the images burned in my brain.  Maybe 75% at the eyepiece and 25% viewing the surroundings.  Also would like to be in a very small group so the surrounding excitement reduces the inclination for mid-eclipse celebrations and high-5's.  There is plenty of time for that afterward.   Traveling light with the setup should also allow some last minute movement to another location if weather is poor.  Another reason to be in a small group so movement on roads is even possible.    Bring on the shadow time!   -Steve


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#16 MattPenn

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 10:03 PM

You, and the replies here, are speaking right to my core beliefs!

 

An eclipse is a special event that needs to be seen with your own eyes.  I shared it with my family and several of my best friends, and it was great.  Robert Allen from USAToday did a timelapse here:
https://www.freep.co...daho/104821910/

 

But I also led the Citizen CATE Experiment, and with lots of work and practice, we developed a system to use off the shelf equipment to take scientific data.  The details are described (and you should be able to repeat the setup if you want) in our 287 co-author paper; it's open access here:

https://iopscience.i...F9M5uPRhPl5N1XE

 

A group of us are working on the final movie; here are snippets from the data from single sites:
https://sites.google...nn/cate_updates

 

I'd love to get another group together for 2024.  I'm working a bit on a smaller, cheaper system that will still take science-quality data.  I'd invite anyone who is interested to send me a message here on cloudy nights.
 

Practice on the Sun and on the lunar earthshine in the months leading up to the eclipse; be flexible about your location; and make sure that you can walk away from your equipment and enjoy the event with your own eyes.  You won't be disappointed!



#17 Anhydrite

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 09:35 PM

Others have given great advice so far.

 

2017 was my first experience and I automated the entire thing so I could watch totality and not worry about pictures.  Only thing I had to do was refocus about 10 minutes prior to totality and take the filters off and put them back on.

 

Got some great images of totality and a great timelapse of the entire thing.

 

1 Thing you can do is do several practice runs in the months prior to the eclipse in your yard.

 

Pick a day your not working and pretend its eclipse day.  Set your software to run the entire sequence and babysit the entire thing.  You will get a feeling for how hot things get, how your batteries perform, how wind effects your setup, how long it takes to re focus....

 

The only thing I wouldn't do is take off any filters.  Practice that separately when your gear is not pointing at the sun.

 

Review all the images to make sure they are useful for what you want. 



#18 RobbC

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:26 PM

I was just poking around in Cartes du Ciel to see what planets would be visible in the sky during the 2024 TSE. Turns out it's all seven of them plus Pluto!

 

Jupiter and Uranus in near-conjunction to the east. Mercury just a few degrees northeast of the Sun. To the west, Venus, and a few degrees farther Neptune, and then Mars and Saturn in near-conjunction. Finally Pluto off close to the western horizon.

 

I'm thinking it would be a nice challenge to try to observe all seven planets in the minutes before or after totality. How often does one get the chance to spot all seven at one time? Though I imagine Uranus and Neptune will be tough. 

 

During totality itself I for one don't intend to spend my time doing anything but jumping up and down and gibbering with excitement. 


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#19 endlessky

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 03:01 AM

Personally, I wouldn't take my eyes off the Sun, not even for a minute. Forget trying to see all the planets (I assume through a telescope, since Uranus and Neptune aren't naked eye, much less Pluto) during totality.

 

Sure, it would be nice seeing them all at once, but there will be other chances for that. I came close to that a few nights ago: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, all pretty much back to back, through my C8, at night time. Venus at 4 AM, through my bedroom window, naked eye. All I was missing was Pluto (didn't want to hook up my camera and hunt for it) and Mercury (too close to the Sun right now to spot it).

 

A total solar eclipse, instead, is almost a once in a lifetime thing.



#20 WebFoot

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 10:36 PM

The 2017 eclipse was my first, and it exceeded all expectations by an order of magnitude, and I had high expectations.

 

You asked three questions:

1. is my goal of automated photography realistic?

I suppose, if you know what you're doing.  But you only get one bite at the apple, and if you miss it, you'll be sorry.  I would not do that, especially since a proper photo of totality includes a bunch of different exposures, to do an HDR composite.

 

2. What gear would you bring? 

I brought two full-frame DSLR cameras, two tripods (non-tracking), and a Thousand Oaks solar filter.  I used one of the cameras, with the filter on, to photograph the course of the partial eclipse.  I used the other to gather my many exposures at different durations for the HDR composite of totality.

 

3. How should I prepare for the event, so I can have confidence that the technology will work for me on the Big Day?

If you're not very familiar with the workings of your camera (and you must use manual exposure settings), you'll miss the whole thing, and not get any good photos.  So I would say that, if you want to photograph the eclipse, practice a great deal, so that you can change exposure, correctly, with your eyes closed, quickly, every time.



#21 noisejammer

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Posted 02 October 2020 - 01:19 PM

I took my scopes from Toronto to Wyoming in 2017. This was my third TSE and it was well worth it.

 

Some thoughts -

Xavier Jubier's Eclipse Maestro (link above) works really well but it only works with OSX systems. Xavier usually releases a new edition a month or two before the next eclipse but Xavier told me that recent modifications to OSX have made it difficult.

 

There's a commercial code - I think called Eclipse Orchestrator - that runs under Windoze. Most of my buddies on the 2017 expedition used this.

 

These codes allow you to record verbal instructions to yourself so that you receive audible prompts for things you may want to do. I had a number of experiments that I wanted to perform as well as record images, so these kept my mind focused while allowing me to watch the eclipse.

 

If you're going to automate the imaging, I think it's essential that you polar mount your scope and chose a focal length that allows about 4 solar diameters at your focal plane. In other words, for APS-C you need a focal length of about 480 mm. For a full frame camera, 640 mm should do nicely. I suggest you orient the camera with the sensor's wide dimension pointing E-W on Sol's disc. Note that Sol's equator is not aligned with the ecliptic - this one got me !

 

I piggy-backed one camera on top of my scope with a wide open 350 mm f/5.6 lens. I set the camera to shoot 5 frames per button press separated by about 1 stop per frame and triggered this camera manually (using an electrical shutter release) every 20 seconds. This was a backup to my automated exposures.

 

I found that getting to our site two nights before was ideal because I could dial in my polar alignment and then check it thoroughly the next night. I used stars to get the focus close but you still need to focus on the Sun's disc. This needs to be practiced.

 

It's important to be able to remove your objective filter from in front of the scope about 5 seconds before totality (and replace it 5 seconds after totality.) I constructed a flip-up solar filter that I secured with a 10 x 3 mm block of stick-on Velcro.

 

I would look for a location near a main road that runs along the eclipse track for a good distance. This works as insurance against clouds.

 

During totality, I measured the sky brightness to be about 14.5m (per square arcsec) at the zenith - don't expect to see too many stars.



#22 kfiscus

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Posted 02 October 2020 - 06:52 PM

I plan on being on a cruise ship off of the west coast of Mexico and have invited a professional photographer to come along.  This will let me enjoy every second and have someone else worrying about getting photos.  I took the same pro with us to Nebraska in 2017 (my 3rd total and his 1st).  His photos were GREAT and I didn't lose a second of that precious time.

 

Why a cruise ship?  The captain has satellite and the ability to find clear skies.  Our cruises in 1991 (Mazatlan) and 1998 (Aruba) both got us to clear skies because the captains were able to plan ahead of the clouds.  We would have been partially- to completely-clouded out of both had we been on land.



#23 DJL

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Posted 03 October 2020 - 11:55 AM

Takeaways from my 2017 solar eclipse experience

- once you have your safe solar filtered setup, you are allowed to practice on any sunny day! Go ahead and learn to align and focus and figure out exposures. 

- I used my DSLR's capability to bracket 7 exposures for each shot

- manual focus on the edge of the sun's disk during the partial eclipse
- I used an iPhone app to tell me when to take photos of the partial to get an evenly spaced set of partials

- I had a filter that could be removed instantly at the start of totality

- I used a cable release so that I could take pictures (7 at a time) during totality without taking my eyes off the actual eclipse

- I didn't have a good solution for the end of totality so quickly ducked the tripod out of the way, got my solar filter back on and carried on with the partials all the way to the end. No outgoing Bailey's beads possible with this method.



#24 BinoGuy

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Posted 10 October 2020 - 04:52 PM

One thing we noticed after the 2017 eclipse was that the roads were packed for the rest of the day.  I agree with the reply above that you need to be flexible as to locations and monitor the weather.  Also be aware that these things are hyped to the max and there are tens of thousands of people on the road.  We waited for two hours after the eclipse and it still took us over 3 hours to drive 60 mile.  Even though we both had decades of local knowledge it turns out that SO DID EVERYONE ELSE!  ha ha There was not a single back road that wasn't packed.  

 

Plan accordingly, bring lots of fluids and snacks and fill the tank with gas because you might be sitting in traffic, and make sure the little ones (2 footed and 4 footed) can take breaks.



#25 sunnyday

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Posted 10 October 2020 - 10:41 PM

i hope to see her from mexico, on the west coast near Puerto Valarta

.by then I hope that the specter of 2020 will only be a bad memory.


  • Bagwell and dhkaiser like this


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