December 4, 2014 by Rob Hurlbut
Sunspots Over Denver
Back in October I posted some photos of the partial solar eclipse the occurred over Denver. In that post I lamented not being able to capture the event very well because the sun is, duh, too damn bright. What I needed, and thus came to want(ed) was a neutral density filter; sunglasses for my camera. Guess what? I got one! Of course it’s been cloudy most days since I bought it but I’ve still managed to mess around with it a little.
My camera has a cropped sensor so my 200mm lens gives me the reach of a 300mm lens on an actual 35mm camera. For the laypeople out there, my camera’s sensor is smaller than a 35mm negative by a factor of 1.5 so that smaller size gives me 1.5 times more reach than if I had a full size (35mm) sensor. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on what I’m trying to do. My cool 8mm fish-eye lens is not as wide as it should be because with my camera it shoots at 12mm. When aiming at the sun or birds of in the distance, my 55-200mm zoom gives me 100 extra millimeters on the far end (300mm). Are you still awake? Well, even if you are not, I’m going to continue.
With the sun being so bright, even a neutral density filter needs help so the photo above was shot in a way that allowed the least amount of light to hit the sensor, whether the ND filter was in place or not. The same settings were used for the shot below during the eclipse; 1/4000th of a second, f/32 and an ISO of 100. Beyond that the only difference between the two is the ND filter, which lets less light pass through the lens and onto the sensor.
Solar Eclipse Over Denver
If you use your imagination, you can see where the moon is blocking the top portion of the sun but you might not see that if I didn’t tell you about it. At this point, the sun was very low in the sky which made for a very dramatic eclipse but still had me struggling to photograph it. The top photo was taken when the sun was a full two hours higher in the sky and yet you can see sun spots even a fleck of dust on my lens. The fleck I’m referring to is the big spot you see at the 8 o’clock position on the sun. Anyway, my point is that I’m pleased with this ND filter and once I’m done pointing it at the sky I’ll get to some slow shutter speed stuff of rivers and waterfalls. Bor-ing stuff. Cheers!