Solar Eclipse

As almost everybody in the UK knows as well as a good proportion of the world, on Friday 20th March at around 09:30 we had a Solar Eclipse of the Sun. This is where the juxtaposition of the moon places it directly between the Sun and the Earth therefore blocking out almost all or some of the sun depending on your location on the planet at that time. In Lincoln where I live we were never predicted to get a total eclipse and the best we would see would be around 80 to 90%; the more North you were, the greater the eclipse would be.

There are many methods that can be employed to view the eclipse; however, the one constant was that you should never look directly at the sun unless you had adequate eye-protection. An even safer method was to look at the sun via a projection method onto a piece of card via a pinhole device, Richard talks about one in his blog here. A good summary of the various devices that can be employed can be found in this article.

Like a large number of people I wanted to see what I could photograph, this is where having an EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) is an advantage, the screen on the EVF (or rear screen for that matter) was an electronic representation of what the sensor was seeing. This is not a true optical copy of the image which would be very dangerous especially a journey (of the light) via the optics into the pentaprism of an optical finder. That said I found it easier to use the screen on the back of the camera and have this tilted so that the camera and lens could be pointed at the eclipse whilst I looked downwards on the screen – much safer. Just to be fair to DSLR users that could do the same using live view but having a tilt-able screen of some kind (Nikon D5xxx series & D750, Canon 700D, 70D, 750D, etc.) would help; otherwise an award angle of view would be required – I disagree with people who say that a tilt-able screen should not be on a DSLR camera, I think that they are very useful particularly if you do video work.

I was using my Olympus OM-D EM-1 with the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens. I used manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec @ f2.8 and ISO 200 this seemed to make the view on the screen quite dark apart form the sun which regardless of the setting would always be clipped at pure white. When I was viewing the photographs on the computer in Lightroom I still had to underexpose them by about 2 stops so I should have used a higher shutter speed such as 1/8000 sec. The white balance was set to “Sunny”.

The first shot before the full-eclipse was as follows:
2015-03-20 SES-1
As you can see the moon is definitely starting to block the sun.

As I started taking shots it never seems to get more eclipsed than about 20-25%, I think that a lot of the projection methods showed more of the eclipse. I was also expecting it to get darker outside and it never seemed that it did. There was also a streak of cloud that started to drift in the wrong direction that was threatening to obscure the eclipse:
2015-03-20 SES-2

As the eclipsed progressed, sure enough the cloud carried on its journey. From an artistic point of view I do like this picture -it’s probably unlike any photograph I will ever be able to take again:
2015-03-20 SES-3

Eventually the cloud totally obscured the eclipse. Thanks to the “Exposure” slider in Lightroom I was able to see the sun through the clouds:
2015-03-20 SES-4

So not a great selection of true solar eclipse photographs but I’m quite happy with the third photograph and I’m still playing with them in Lightroom to see if I can get something really artistic.

One final point to note was that again I was using Manual exposure mode, Manual ISO and Manual white balance -something that I have never been able to do before without complete disaster so something is after a lot of time is improving. Is it the OM-D E-M1 or is it me improving? I suspect that it’s a bit of both but whatever it is I still enjoy using this camera and the more I use it and read about is capabilities (there is a LOT to learn) the better it gets. Eventually, I would love to add another OM-D to my bag as a backup.


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