Preparing to Photograph the 2024 Eclipse

Lot’s of eclipse images coming from me on my social sites and lots of talk about the eclipse here, it’s fresh in my mind, it was life altering and while it’s still fresh I want to talk about how to prepare for the 2024 eclipse. Remember, I’ve done this once, having said that I have a game plan and a lot of things that I learned from this one experience. Without further ado, here goes.

Unlike the 2017 eclipse totality for the 2024 eclipse is going to pass within about 50 miles of where I live. Today I talked with a lady about our excursion to see the eclipse and she said “well they say we will have like 99.9% here.” This brings me to my first point:

Drive as far as you have to, do whatever is necessary, take off work, rent a hotel room years in advance, whatever it takes, get on the center line of totality. If you aren’t on the center line totality won’t last as long, you’re going to want it to last as long as possible. Also worth noting, a partial eclipse will leave you miserably disappointed. Now that we have that out of the way.

If you are planning to photograph the eclipse, proceed. (see my results here)

I waited until the last minute this year, I didn’t get what the big deal was. The more I researched the more I realized that I probably needed to make an effort to not only see this but also photograph it. You have 7 years, get a game plan now.

With my limited 3 weeks for planning I had one shot that I wanted to get, that was my sole focus. I wanted a close up of the corona radiating out behind the moon. That is what I spent my money to capture, that is what I spent my time researching. My secondary plan was a wide angle time lapse, which mostly failed because I didn’t study how to do that. What I studied, what I set out to get, I got, nothing more, nothing less.

The issue with waiting until 3 weeks before the event is that most of the stuff I wanted, and discovered I needed, was well past sold out. Getting a solar filter was near impossible, getting a telephoto lens was near impossible, getting a tracking mount to counter the earths rotation, was impossible. So I had to make due with what I could get. I ended up lucking out and getting a proper solar filter from the camera shop that was in the town where we stayed to see the eclipse, don’t plan on this, buy a solar filter now. My back up plan was an ND filter with a major risk of frying my gear.

Telephoto shots are fun and challenging, if it’s telephoto shots you’re after then start planning your rental or purchase of that telephoto lens, now. Get the solar filter for it, probably a year in advance, if not sooner. The other option is to get a wide angle time lapse photo, or just a wide angle photo of totality in general. The principles are essentially the same for this, the difference is you should have no issues securing a wide angle lens. It may however be wise to get the filter as soon as possible. My personal game plan for 2024 is to do both. I now know the basis for shooting the time lapse and shooting the telephoto, the plan is to get the tracking mounts for both to counter balance the earths rotation and trigger both remotely.

The biggest thing I can suggest is to practice. Go out with your lens and your solar filter as soon as you get it, the sun moves fast across the sky due to the earths rotation, if you don’t have a mount to counter balance this you need to practice. The longer your focal length the faster it will move. Run through the settings, make your game plan and just practice, practice, practice.

I cannot emphasize to study and practice enough. There were two guys behind me who were VERY cocky about being professional photographers, the were very confident and very full of themselves. After totality I heard them both talking about how they didn’t get the shots. They missed the diamond ring, they didn’t bracket enough. Know what you’re getting into and practice. Run through the setting changes, run through all of it.

If you’re not shooting telephoto shots remember that totality is dark, super dark. It’s like shooting under a full moon. If you’re zoomed in with a telephoto on the eclipse itself this isn’t much of a concern. You’ll be able to rock shutter speeds of 1/100 and still get great results. If you’re trying to capture the landscape around you you’re going to have to slow it down, open the aperture or bump the iso. Know what you want to capture and plan accordingly.

Last but not least, consider not shooting the eclipse. It’s an insane, unbelievably beautiful, incredible, experience. Soak it up, enjoy it, and don’t worry about the camera. Photographing things is my joy in life, going to see something like this and not trying to photograph it would be a let down to my internal being. If photography isn’t important to you, maybe it’s a hobby that isn’t ingrained within your being, pass on the photos and just soak it up. Plenty of other people will take photos of it.

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