So I went with my family up to Oregon for the total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017. We stayed in Lincoln City, OR and had a long drive up and down… but that’s really interesting from a tech/maker perspective. What is potentially interesting is what little things I did and brought along for the experience.
Shot of Totality Eclipse
Video of the totality event
Solar Filters… Oops and Mad Dash to Fix!
We needed solar filters for our eyes and for our cameras.
We had originally bought some cool looking welder’s goggles and a visor for the event thinking that it would be sufficient. We found out a few days before we headed out that apparently, shade #4 and shade #5 were nowhere near enough for protection! (FYI, you need shade #14. You can get by with shade #13)
Fixing The Welding Visor
Thankfully, the welder’s visor accepted the standard 2″x4.25″ plates and I was able to find one at a local welding supply shop(Welder’s Heaven in San Jose, CA). The darkest that they had was a shade #13, but since that was sufficient, I went with it. I also bought a 4.25×4.25″ shade #14 plate.
Fixing The Welding Goggle
I had also bought an 8″x8″ metalized film from an astronomy supply shop a few weeks ago, but never got around to using it. Well, a couple of days before my road trip, it was time to make something from it. One pair of welding goggles had screw caps, so I could unscrew it and see that there was a clear glass plate and a shade #4 welding plate.
I cut out squares of the solar film big enough to cover the clear plates and applied some UV cure LOCA(Liquid Optically Clear Adhesive) to the matte/dark side of the film and pressed the glass onto the glue. Into the UV curing chamber for 2 sessions of 180 seconds, and I had the solar film bonded to the clear glass. I trimmed the excess film and replaced the shade plate and now solar film plate with the silvery side out and the shade plate on the inside. Worked great!
Solar Filter For Cameras
Now that I had protection for our eyes, we needed protection for our cameras.
Welder’s Plate Solar Filter
I will say this about welder’s plate: it was not designed for superior optical performance… it was designed for superior protection. Having said that, it’s hard and rigid, which makes it easy to craft around. This is what I ended up doing to create the lens size agnostic solar filter for my camera:
- Get 1/2 yard of faux leather fabric. The good stuff. Make sure it is light proof.
- Get the 4.25″x4.25″ plate and apply glue to the edge.
- Press the edge along a line about 5mm in from the edge of the fabric. If you use super glue, this will set fairly quickly.
- Rotate the plate along the fabric and pulling it taught, apply glue to the next edge and apply to the fabric.
- Rinse and repeate #3,#4 until all four edges are glued to the fabric. You can seal the end by gluing it the excess length as overlap around the outer edge again. You will want an overlapped tube of fabric anyways.
- Once the glue has dried, you can trim the 2-3mm excess on the outside of the plate. Or you can leave it. It doesn’t matter much.
- Get your lens of choice and stick it into the hood. Get some velcro or nylon webbing or rubber bands and use it to secure the faux leather hood material to the lens.
- If you are lucky, your focus ring will be near the body of the camera and not near the front of the lens. Otherwise, you may need to affix the hood to the lens hood.
Solar Film Filter
For the solar film filter, I basically made a cardboard box that had an opening cut into it which was about 5mm inset from the dimension of the film I had. In this case, I had a 6″x7″ section of film left. I made a cardboard box that was 6×7″ and with a 5mm lip all around and an opening. The film was attached to the lip and thus the box with double sided tape.
Once the film was applied, I got double sided viscoelastic foam tape and surrounded the outer edge of the box and basically attached the faux leather fabric to the box just like I did with the welding plate. Except this time, it was to the cardboard box lid.
The inside of the box happened to be white, so I got some matte non-reflect self adhesive film and covered the inside so that it wouldn’t bounce light around.
This too can be attached to a lens or camera just like with the welding plate. The difference is that you will get significantly better image detail. But the cost is that it is much more fragile. -_-;
Gear For Recording The Eclipse
- Sony Alpha A99 DSLT w/Tamron 150-600mm lens w/1.4X teleconverter
- This will be used to take the bulk of the close up eclipse progression and the totality shadow. The lens will be zoomed out to 600mm and with the 1.4 teleconverter, will be about 800-900mm in reach. This will either use the welder’s glass filter or the solar film filter. Final decision was to go with the solar film because it didn’t create double images.
- During the course of shooting the eclipse, I got interviewed by Nick Beber:
— Nick Beber (@PhotogNickBeber) August 21, 2017
And got a sound bite in KGW-TV’s coverage of the event in Lincoln City, Oregon:
- Sony Alpha A7ii w/Zeiss Batis 18mm + Ninja2 HDMI recorder
- This will be used to record wide angle eclipse event footage and to capture the effect of totality on the whole of the area.
- Sony Alpha A7R w/SonyZeiss 35mm and Batis 85mm
- For general photography and to capture some of the things happening around me. In the end, though, this mainly sat in my bag and didn’t get usage since I spent most of my time adjusting the A99m2 or chatting up with the fellow eclipse viewing folks.
- Next time, get some dummy batteries and tether cameras to DC power packs. Needing to swap batteries or have a camera go offline when the power runs out kinda sucks. 🙁
- Neoprene to shield the cameras and gear from mist and wind. Once the eclipse got going, it got COLD, FOGGY, and MISTY!
- I should have tied the Ninja2 to the A99M2 so I could have gotten a higher magnification video recording and let the A7II record on it’s own. But… hindsight and all of that. Maybe what I need is a 2nd recorder.
- Have business cards so people can find me. But adding FaceBook friends on site was really cool.
- Getting interviewed by KGW-TV’s Nick Beber was pretty cool. He was great and I’m glad he was able to make use of my condensation sound bite. 🙂
- Did I mention things got very very wet? Thank goodness Sony makes cameras that don’t mind some water on them. My fear was the 1.4X teleconverter, which I knew was not weather sealed in any way shape or form. Maybe a terry towel next time.
- A 15 minute totality event would have been amazing… but given how much the weather and winds changed with just 1m52s, any more and bad things might have happened. -_-;
- All in all, loved the event!