The Eclipse Plan

With a little short of two minutes of totality I need to go into this with a plan. I do want a few photos, but I also want to experience the eclipse. How do I balance that?

Hodgepodge setup on the side of Mauna Kea with the TV-76mm and Telrad on the plate
The important bit here is that I am going to give myself time to simply enjoy the eclipse and not spend the whole time futzing with the camera gear. When totality begins I will simply sit back and watch. To that end I have thought through a shot plan that may just accomplish this balance.

The plan calls for three cameras… A single camera on a solar telescope, this will be primarily run on automatic with an intervalometer. I just need to check focus and centering of the solar image periodically during the long partial phases. I will use part of totality to attend to this camera and take a deep corona photo.

A second camera will be a GoPro Hero 4 set for timelapse every 2 seconds, running for 20 minutes around eclipse this will provide 600 frames for a video, or about 25 seconds of video once assembled. This camera will be set to capture our group activity observing the eclipse around the solar telescope. Since the Sun will be about 42 degrees elevation it should be possible to capture it in the frame along with the group.

Sun on Aug 10, 2017
The Sun as it appeared August 10, 2017 with sunspot AR2670
A third camera will be a Canon G12 set for video. This will also be on a tripod set to capture the scene, the activity of our group during the eclipse. Both this and the GoPro will be well back from the group or set high to avoid anyone blocking the camera by standing too close. The top of a camper perhaps? Both of these cameras are set and forget, no attention needed during the event.

I will also keep a fourth camera on me to record incidental snapshots during the event, just something to have on-hand.

The Schedule
  • Prior to first contact I will get the solar telescope setup and focused. Ideally it will already be polar aligned from observing the night before.
  • T-120min (09:00am PST)Set the solar telescope camera for 30s interval timed exposures (146 exposures during partial phase)
  • T-113min (09:07:13am PST) Partial eclipse begins
  • T-20min Change the camera battery and SD card on camera, swap out the telescope drive battery
  • T-15min Check focus on the solar telescope and lock it down, center image, lock the clutches
  • T-10min Hit record on the video camera and GoPro timelapse cameras
  • T-5min Set the camera for ±2 stop bracket and set the intervalometer for 5 second intervals, re-center the image in the telescope, this intervalometer setting will be used throughout totality
  • T-5min Watch the eclipse
  • T-5sec Remove the solar filter
  • T (10:20:31am PST) Watch the eclipse
  • T+30sec Check exposure and shoot a couple wide brackets of the solar corona
  • T+60sec Set the camera for a reasonable exposure and ±2stop bracket, re-start the intervalometer for time lapse on the remainder of the eclipse
  • T+90sec Watch the remainder of the eclipse
  • T+117sec (End of totality) Replace solar filter
  • T+120sec Reset intervalometer for 10 minute interval and shoot remainder of the eclipse partial phase
  • T+12min Stop video camera and GoPro timelapse camera
  • T+82min (11:42:19am PST) Partial eclipse ends
  • T+100min Stop solar scope camera intervalometer

You can note from the schedule that there are only three things to do during the total phase of this eclipse… Remove the filter at totality, replace the filter at the end of totality, that should take a few seconds. Then adjust exposure to shoot a single bracket in the middle of totality.

What if things do not go as planned? Do not sweat it. If a camera fails close to totality, just skip it. The priority is on watching the event.

Too remind me of critical items leading into the eclipse I have set alarms in my phone. I do want to remember to start the cameras in the lead-up and change the batteries on the solar telescope camera and drive. I have not set any alerts during the eclipse itself to avoid any nuisances in that would detract from the experience.

That is the plan. We shall see if it goes according to plan. Any bets on that?

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

One thought on “The Eclipse Plan”

  1. I have a similar plan but it’s somewhat complicated by the need to shave a goat in time for totality.

    This has been a difficult task to accurately schedule in the past.

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