Photographing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
Total Eclipses are a rarity and unfortunately the “Great American” Eclipse of 2017 didn’t reach totality in Ottawa. But with just under 60% coverage it was still something to behold.
Totality for this eclipse stretched from the Pacific to Atlantic coast across the United States with a partial eclipse visible from northern Canada to South America. The last visible total eclipse in the US was 1979, and it was a century since the last coast-to-coast eclipse.
Naturally, there was a lot of excitement for this unique celestial even and a ton of media attention on the eclipse.
August 21st 2017 was almost a full year since I bought the cottage. Even though going north meant slightly less coverage, I took the opportunity to enjoy the incredibly warm summer day beside the lake and borrowed the family’s beach. I even had some additional help, with my 10 year old nephew & 8 year old niece there to experience their first eclipse.
It was a fantastic experience and one I’m hoping to better with the total eclipse in nearby Kingston, Ontario, Canada in April 2024.
My Photography setup
Unlike with my usual deep sky photos, auto guiding was impossible. I had the added difficulty of location. Getting a clear view of the sun for all of the eclipse meant I set up close to the water and did not have a view of Polaris. Polar aligning (which would have been smart to do the night before) would have been very difficult with trees blocking anything north. Although finding & keeping the sun in frame was relatively easy, I had to be on the hand controller for the entire eclipse.
I also needed to add another piece of gear to my toolkit. Staring at the Sun isn’t good for your eyes, and it’s definitely not good on your camera sensor. I took advantage of a sunny Saturday a few weeks before the eclipse to test out the filter in my back yard. It would have been a disaster if I spent most of the eclipse fiddling with the nobs or trying to figure out how to focus with this thing on.
August 21st, 2017
It was a glorious late-August day by the water. After getting the telescope set up after breakfast, I spent the morning swimming in the warm lake water and keeping a constant look at the clock. A few passing clouds posed no real obstruction for the Sun and life was good.
I used Backyard EOS to control my Canon T6 camera, keeping exposure lengths short and my ISO low. Thankfully the blandness of the Sun was broken up by two different sets of sunspots that had appeared a few days prior.
The eclipse also provided an opportunity for outreach. A few neighbours passed by on their boats, with several docking to come and take a look at the setup. Although the telescope wasn’t available for visual observation, I found extra sun glasses in the recent copy of Sky & Telescope magazine and was able to share the experience with others.