Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to take photos of Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

Some tips on how to take photos of Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States; If you are not within that band in the USA, you will still be able to see a large portion of the Sun covered by the Moon. 
 A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent diameter is larger than the sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometers wide.

Now let us get to the main topic: How to take photos of the Solar eclipse.

Sun photo in Auto mode.
To be ready for the Solar Eclipse photos this Monday, I wanted to run a quick test. I have few SLRs but I took out the fixed lens Panasonic FZ200 which offers easy convenient 24x zoom. Also, when there is abundant light, or too much light in this situation, any camera would work almost equally. The Bokeh of SLR is not possible as you can't take photos with wide open aperture. Also, SLRs are good for low light but here we are in a situation which has too much light.
So I turned on my camera, pointed it to the Sun and tried to take a photo. Here is what I got: 

Probably you wouldn't be able to see the photo on the right because it is all white! The Sun is the brightest object for any camera so in Auto mode, all I got was a perfect white photo! (I had to add a border on it so you can at least assume that there is a photo!)

I needed to reduce the light getting into the camera. I changed the camera mode to Manual from Auto. To minimize light, I set up the fastest shutter speed of 1/4000, smallest aperture of f/8 and lowest ISO of 100 on my Panasonic FZ200. This is the best this camera would go to take the least possible light. I zoomed to 24x- around 600mm equivalent on a full frame camera. I took another photo. Same result. I couldn't take a photo of the Sun. It was all white! 

Now to be able to take photos of the Sun before and during the Solar Eclipse, I had to do something. I needed to find a way to reduce the light getting on to the sensor. On a summer day, to reduce light getting into our eyes, what do we do? We put on sun-shade or goggles. This is was I needed to do for my camera. I have few natural density filters but my son, Miraj, took them with him on his trip to Sweden and Iceland to photograph water falls. Also, I am not sure if 2x, 4x, 8x ND filters would be able to block enough light. I thought of putting sun goggles in front of the lens but it is not convenient to hold both the camera and the goggles same time. Suddenly an idea stuck into my head. I searched for some old X Ray in the house. Luckily (LOL) having two sports loving boys in the household, it wasn't a difficult job.  I cut a piece and put it in front of my camera. Look at the photo of my camera below! 
Panasonic FZ200 for Solar Eclipse

I went out in the backyard, pointed at the bright noon Sun, zoomed the lens all the way to 24x and voila, I had limited most of the light and I was able to capture the photo of the Sun. I am excited with this camera jugaad and I am sure I would have fun taking photos of the eclipse on this Monday. I am all set!

There is one side benefit I guess for people who are not in taking eclipse photos. You can use your camera and this X ray film to watch the solar eclipse safely on the camera LCD instead of risking your eyes to look directly at the Eclipse. (Disclaimer: I think this should be safe but I can guarantee the safety. I am not an expert. Please ask my smart friend, Google!) 
Here is the photo of the Sun I just took with the X Ray film in front of the lens! 

Sun photo at noon in broad day light!

As I say on this blog, in most of the situations, you can take better photos with some easy to follow tips. Possibility of Trial and Error photography is the biggest blessing of digital cameras. Take a trial photo. Find the issue. Try to fix it. Here, the issue was too much light. The solution was to try to reduce the light!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking best photos at the Top of the World- 124th floor at Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Currently, Burj Khalifa in Dubai holds the world record of the tallest structure or building in the world. There is always a long line of visitors who pay from $30 to $100 to go on the 124/125th or 148th floor of it. Naturally, every visitor of the world famous building tries to take some photos. Most of the time, the photos do not come out well. The reason is the high dynamic range. In Dubai's desert like condition, outside is mostly very bright compared to inside the observation gallery.
If you take a photo in an Auto mode, the face will be too dark so your friends would not be sure if that person is you or someone else. Or if your camera decided to expose your face properly or used Flash, it is very likely that you will look great in the photo but the background will wash out! Your friends wouldn't know if you are on the top of the world or looking the window of your office building LOL.
Photo 1: Exposed for the face will wash out the background.

Photo 2: If you want to expose for the background, the face will be too dark.

So what is the trick to take nice photos at this Top of the World?
Trick#1. Use Trial and Error. Take few photos in landscape modes and in Auto mode. Now turn on the Flash and take a photo first in Auto mode, then in Program mode and then one in Landscape mode. It is possible, one of the photos will come out good.

Trick#2. If you want to take a great photo in such situations where you want to capture background as well as subject nicely, here is my trick.

Take a photo in landscape mode of only the background.
Burj Kahlifa
 You can see that the photo came out nice! Now I read the 3 important numbers that the Camera had used. The shutter speed was 1/640 second, aperture was f/4 and ISO was 100. Bingo!
I changed the camera mode to Manual mode. Set shutter speed, aperture and ISO to these values! Had my family sit in front of the glass and I took a new photo with Flash. As I turned on the flash, there was enough light to brighten my family! The shutter-speed of 1/640 second, aperture of 4 and ISO of 100 was enough to bring in the background!

 What do you say? With some trick, I was able to take a nice photo at the Top of the World, 125 th floor of #BurjKhalifa !