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Shooting for the Sun: A Perspective on Solar Photography


 

Do you want to know how to photograph the sun?

Unlike imaging the moon or the soft glow of celestial specters—special precautions need to be taken—so you don’t set your eyes on fire.

Here’s a quick list of everything you’ll need:

  1. Common Sense

  2. A Glass Solar Filter

  3. A Telescope

  4. T-Ring Adapter (for specific camera model)

  5. DSLR Camera (with manual settings)

 

If you find yourself staring at the sun without any properly designed gear…you’re doing something wrong. Very wrong. If you become hypnotized by sparkling colored orbs floating across your field of vision…then you’re doing something wrong. Very wrong.

**No! Your stylish Oakley sunglasses will not protect your eyeballs!**

 

filter1

There are a few ways to photograph the sun:

  1. Glass Solar Filter/Prime Focus

  2. Solar Projection

  3. Video Camera

  4. Afocal photography

 

Glass solar filters are designed to fit snugly around a telescope’s objective lens—reflecting 99.999% of sunlight. This is the safest way to remove the sun’s glare. I don’t recommend using a filter which screws onto an eyepiece (unless you love the aroma of burning telescope).

Gear8

Prime Focus (camera attached to telescope)

You don’t want concentrated sunlight being focused through an eyepiece…if the glass cracks…while you’re gawking at the sun…you guessed it! Your eye will turn to molten goo. Yup. It’s true.

Glass solar filters are more expensive than solar films and other products, but the extra investment will help maintain the integrity of your eyes.

Sunspots

I recommend purchasing a glass solar filter from a reputable dealer and avoid dubiously priced products.

** Be Smart! Protect Your Eyes! **

 

A glimpse at the sun through any telescope will incinerate your retinas before you can comprehend anything is wrong. Remember that.

Projecting the sun onto a piece of paper (or cardboard) is also safe, and it’s possible to photograph the projected image. Galileo used this technique to track the migration of sunspots.

I don’t have any experience using the solar projection method, so I can’t comment on specific details. Sorry.

Shadow Reader

 

In order to safely center the sun in a telescopic eyepiece…you need to learn how to read your telescope’s shadow.

Yeah, that’s right.

What? Did you think that you were just going to stare at the sun and aim your telescope? Haha…

…If shadow reading sounds like a pain in the ass…it’s because it can be.

  1. When a telescope is aimed directly at the sun—pay attention to the shape and size of the projected shadow.

  2. The more compact its shape, the more precise the alignment will be. Simple. Easy. Scientific.

 

 

shadow1

Read the Shadow.

Catadioptric shadows can be difficult to read (especially compared to refractors). The above image depicts a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, which has a stubby body. To say the least.

** Don’t become frustrated! Visually aiming the telescope is an ill-advised maneuver **

 

A long focal length telescope complicates the process even further. A low power eyepiece (40mm) will cut back the magnification—making the sun much easier to locate.

shadow2

Shadow Alignment

Solar Mugshot

 

Prime focus is a viable solar photographic method—the technique involves attaching a camera to a telescope (via an appropriate T-ring adapter).

** It can be difficult seeing the sun through a camera LCD screen **

 

Try these settings if you have difficulty seeing the sun through the camera LCD screen:

  • ISO: 1600 (or higher)

  • Exposure: Bulb

 

After the sun is visible through the camera LCD screen, then dial-in the proper exposure settings.

 

**Remember to Focus!**

 

Sunspots should be used as focusing targets (when ever possible):

  1. Magnify Image 5x—Focus

  2. Zoom Magnify Image 10x—focus

 

The atmosphere affects solar photographic resolution. Greatly. Take a look at the image below this sentence—the fuzziness was caused by a restless atmosphere, which blurred and distorted the photograph. Wonderful.

PSun-1-2

Distorted Sun

  • Photograph the sun during calm days.

  • Avoid photographing the sun during shitty weather. Simple. Easy. Scientific.

 

The Sun Is Bright As Hell

 

Even though a typical glass solar filter blocks more than 99% of the sun’s light, the remaining radiation is still pretty damn bright, so don’t underestimate it! Or you may overexpose your images…and no one likes that. So don’t do it. Please.

sun6

Exposure: 1/50 Sec.

 

Whoa…what happened? See? What did I tell you—the image is overexposed—nearly washing out all of the detail across the photosphere. Impressive. Not.

sun9-1

Exposure: 1/400 Sec.

 

Decreasing the exposure time will make subtle detail more apparent (granulation, sunspot anatomy…) so don’t be shy! Experiment and discover what works for you.

** Important Reminder **

 

  • Common Sense. Use it.

 

** Solar Photo Album **

 

yellows1

sunpano

Sun

Sun - 10

sunphoto2

Sunspot-3

SunFace

 

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About FlyTrapMan (189 Articles)
I have no idea what I'm doing.

9 Comments on Shooting for the Sun: A Perspective on Solar Photography

  1. As so often, great in depth and no nonsense article with good advice on how to not blind yourself! and so well photographed too. I understand that, when there is lots of activity, flares etc, we can expect a great aurora. Truly interesting.
    There was a clearish sky last night…I looked at the stunning milky way at 4am and thought about you and went back to bed happyish !xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Look at your nice equipment! 🙂 Lol. My brain tingles whenever I read your well documented and brilliant posts about all the amazing things you can find in the sky. Thank you for working out my brain!

    When’s the best time to photograph the sun? You say to do it when the day’s calm and clear, but do you find the sun more photogenic in the middle of the afternoon or earlier? I know I’m more photogenic when the sun’s not blasting my face, so my round face prefers late afternoon. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for the late response!

      Your brain tingles? That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

      There’s no best time to photograph the sun. Weather and atmospheric conditions dictate when it’s best to the image the sun…wait…I see what you did there! Very funny \”/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll wait for great sun shots when your documentary comes out. I wouldn’t want to look at the sun unless I can see its real face, flares and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the idea! I’m not sure if I can shoot video through my telescope, but if I can — I’ll definitely make a documentary. And then you won’t have to worry about potentially setting your eyes on fire! Yesssss

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, good time to watch the sun; lot of flares, from what I hear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Solar activity waxes and wanes — white light glass filters are unable to see flares or prominences (unfortunately). H-Alpha filters are typically used to record that kind of solar activity, but they’re expensive.

      Liked by 1 person

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