Now that my 2023 Annular Eclipse "dry-run" was a success I figured I'd write up a detailed post about my kit I put together for this year and next year's eclipses. Ever since the 2017 total eclipse I knew I wanted to try and take some better photographs of the 2024 eclipse. I'm from PA and I knew I was going to base out of Texas for the total eclipse, but I also knew driving to Texas was going to be out of the question so I needed a solution that was flight ready. I was interested in trying to capture the annular eclipse as well, so I used that as a goal to have my kit ready so I could use it as a dress-rehearsal.
Another big goal I had was being able to automate as much as possible. I wanted to be able to use a motorized mount and timer for the camera so I could set it up and be able to enjoy the rest of the eclipse and talk to people without having to worry about babysitting my camera the whole time.
First off here's all of the equipment together:
As noted I have an Apache 5800 from Harbor Freight as my main carry-on. Then the Pier and the Tripod go in my checked luggage.I probably don't need the pier since my scope camera should have enough clearance with this tripod, but it was a good place to mount the battery so I included it.
Inside the Apache 5800 I've removed most of the foam and just fitted in the entire soft carrying case for my Williams Optics ZenithStar 61ii. I actually thought I was going to have to pull out the foam from the case and just stick that in there, but surprisingly the whole case fits in perfectly. I also just threw in the whole foam packaging for the mount (SkyWatcher AZ-GTi). The camera I've had since 2020 and I just got it off eBay. I wanted to go mirrorless so it would be compact, but otherwise I went with the A6000 since it has the features I need, without me being overwhelmed by all the buttons and dials of other nicer cameras. The battery I've also had for a while to use with my Celestron NexStar 6SE. It's way overkill for this set up and after running the mount for 3+ hours and taking over 400 pictures the battery indicator remained on full.
One thing I'll likely change for the Total Eclipse is running the mount via the iPhone. It worked great for the annular eclipse since all my exposures ended up being the same (ISO 640 1/500s) for the entire eclipse. I was able to set the camera settings and just use Skywatcher's app to take a picture every 60 seconds, or manually once it got close to maximum and I wanted more photos. For the total eclipse I'll need some way to program the different exposures I want to take for totality. I haven't decided how I'll do this since I don't have a laptop, but I may play around with a RasPi.. Any suggestions would be appreciated.