How I photographed yesterday’s Eclipse

Yesterday was a working day for me, so I didn’t have time to drive hours to reach the path of totality.

I didn’t buy any fancy special equipment. I didn’t use any external filters. I didn’t use a tripod. I didn’t have special glasses. I also didn’t look directly into the sun, and so I didn’t damage my vision. Conditions were partially cloudy, which I found greatly aided my photography and made for more dramatic images.

The following photos of the solar eclipse were made on our back patio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania using my Nikon Z7-II mirrorless digital camera fitted with a standard f2.8 70-200mm Z-series zoom lens. This is the same equipment that I regularly use to photograph trains and other terrestrial subjects.

The Z7-II has a flexible/adjustable rear diplay screen that allowed me to point the camera skyward while looking away from the sun. I set the focus manually to infinity (confirmed by the digital readout on my lens). Likewise, I manually set the ISO rating to the lowest possible setting (‘Low 1.0’) which effectively provides an ISO rating of 40, and set the exposure (shutter and aperature) manually.

By exposing a series of test photos, I determined the optimal aperature/shutter speed combination to preserve the eclipse digitally. I’ve included this data in the caption below each image. I tried a few exposures at both ISO 64 and then ISO 40 at f22 1/8000th of a second, and ultimately settled on between f10 and f22 at either 1/2000th or 1/4000th of a second.

Just for frame of reference; f22 at 1/4000th of a second at ISO 40 is about 8 and 1/2 stops down (darker) than my standard daylight exposure for photographing trains in full sunlight.

After making several rounds of celestial exposures, I’d download the card to my Apple laptop to inspect the images before making additional images.

Using Adobe Lightroom, I scaled photographs from 51.4MB NEF RAW files to manageable sized JPGs to display via the internet. I made no corrections/alterations to color, constast, exposure etc.

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