Friday, April 14, 2017

Practice Makes Perfect...

Yes…it sounds like it is a bit early, but everyone knows the old saying…practice makes perfect.  And I would like to be as close to perfect as possible on Aug. 21 when the moon will sweep in front of the sun.

I am somewhat lucky, as I live on the southern edge of the zone of totality, but I won’t experience the eclipse where I live.  I hope to be about 30 miles north of here very close to the centerline.  And I do hope to get a series of good eclipse photos.

I have never photographed a total eclipse, so what I do on the day of the eclipse will be a first for me.  However, I will soon have everything I need to make those photos become a reality and will then start practicing what I need to do.  I do wish I had a second Canon body, as that would make everything a lot easier…maybe I will be able to borrow one between now and then.

I plan to use the following equipment in search of the ultimate total solar eclipse photograph.

1 – An ETX-80 Observer 
2 -- Helios Solar Glass Filter of 108 mm size 
3 – A Revolution Imager connected to a monitor, or a MallinCam SkyRaider AG1.2c Imager-Guider attached to a laptop
4 – Canon EOS 60D 
5 – A Tolkina AT-X 12-28 PRO DX wide angle zoom
6 – A Thousand Oaks Optical 77 mm threaded white light solarlite filter for the lens 

Since I will need to remove the solar filter during totality to image the corona, I will need an easy way to remove the filter without disturbing where the camera is pointed.  Rather than spend a few moments unscrewing the filter, I have obtained a set of 77 mm Xume lens and filter holders.  I will “lift” the filter off the lens, shoot the totality phase, then reattach the filter to the lens and continue shooting the final partial phases.

Should I be able to obtain a second Canon body, I will have my Canon EF 100-400mm II on that body and using a Tiffen variable neutral density filter, photograph the corona during totality.  Hopefully, I will be able to “stack” the images to get better detail in the corona.

Now you must be thinking, “What does he need to practice?”  I’ll tell ya…

As I said earlier, I have never photographed a total eclipse.  My main concerns are setting my equipment up to provide the best images possible.  The final part of that will depend on where I setup for the eclipse itself.  Since I plan to image the entire eclipse, I do need to know what the best focal length of the wide angle lens will be.  That needs to be determined ahead of time and then used at the shooting site.

The next part I need to practice is the combination of the ETX-80 and the camera to attach to the telescope.  Both will allow “live” view of what the scope is seeing, but which camera – the Revolution Imager (RI) being a video camera adapted for astronomical use and the MallinCam being a 1.2 megapixel CMOS camera – will provide the best image.

A test with the MallinCam several weeks ago on the daylight moon (see previous post) revealed something I wasn’t counting on…a small field of view.  The sun would also fit in the field of view, but it would need to be carefully monitored to maintain the view.  I have yet to use the RI, so I do not know what will be its field of view.  However, I do have a .5 focal reducer.  With it, I should be able to increase the field of view.  But the reducer does need to be tested on both cameras to see which works best.

And finally, the last thing I want to do at the viewing site is to be figuring out how to use the camera I chose.  Once my solar filter for the ETX-80 arrives, I will be practicing on the sun.  Hopefully there will be some sunspots to image.

I think I have covered most of what I will be doing before the “Great American Eclipse” occurs.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I live on the southern edge of totality, in Redmond, Oregon.  The best place to view the eclipse in central Oregon is Madras which is about 30 miles north.  However, predictions are for thousands upon thousands of eclipse fans to arrive in the area of Madras.  Since I somewhat know the area, I will be searching for a decent spot where my friends and I can view the event with the fewest number of people to interfere with our enjoyment and most importantly, our equipment.

Besides, I am not a big fan of crowds. 

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