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Whether you’re using a fancy camera or a smartphone, here’s how to take great eclipse photos

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Getting to see even one total solar eclipse is a rare occurrence. Photographer Stan Honda has three under his belt. His first experience took place in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, in 2015 — what he saw was a singular spectacle and chance for anyone wielding a camera.

“At that latitude the sun, even at noon, was only about 11 degrees above the horizon, which is pretty low,” Honda said. “So we didn’t really have to look up into the sky — we just sort of looked straight at the horizon to see the eclipse taking place. When it went total, it was against this incredible foreground of ice and snow, and it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit there. We were all pretty bundled up, but it was a pretty remarkable scene. That has stayed with me.”The upcoming April 8 total eclipse will likely be the one of the most photographed events of the year, with almost 32 million people in the United States alone living in the path of totality — the corridor along which the moon will completely cover the sun — and another 150 million living within 200 miles of it.

Crossing from Mexico into Texas and then across a dozen US states before reaching Maine and ending over Canada, the path will range between 108 and 122 miles (174 and 196 kilometers) wide, offering up to 4½ minutes of totality in the Southern states.

Weather permitting, it is an incredible opportunity for photographers of any skill level. Whether you’re working with a high-end DSLR camera or a smartphone, Honda — an experienced astrophotographer who in addition to total eclipses has captured a whole lot of partial ones — has some tips on how to make the moment last through images.

For the upcoming eclipse, Honda will be in Fredericksburg, Texas, taking pictures on behalf of international news agency Agence France-Presse.

 

“I was looking at weather maps and historically, as you go further south, there’s less chances of clouds. Texas is as far south as you can go in the US to view the totality part of the eclipse,” he said. “Fredericksburg is just west of Austin, so it’s easy to get to. It seems to be a pretty popular choice, and it looks like this area of Texas is getting ready for pretty big crowds.”

Honda said he usually plans two kinds of pictures. One is taken with a wide-angle lens to capture the eclipse and also the landscape around it. “To me, that’s actually a better photo, because it kind of puts the eclipse in a location, it puts it in a setting,” he said. “And also, it shows you where you were at the time.”

The other kind of image he aims for involves using a telephoto lens and prioritizes the celestial event. “You’ve probably seen a lot of those shots, just focusing on the sun itself,” he said, “and the sun makes up a large part of the picture.”

As part of his professional setup, Honda will have a third camera with a really wide-angle lens to try to get even more of the landscape, and a fourth camera around his neck, with a wide-angle zoom lens, to photograph the people around him and document their reactions.

But you don’t need all that.

“With pretty much any kind of camera or any lens, you can get a good picture of the eclipse,” he said. “I would just recommend a fairly sturdy tripod, to make your setup pretty steady, and a remote shutter release, because that allows you to take the pictures without jarring or moving the camera too much.”

Eclipse moments to capture — and how to do it safely

Just like your eyes need protection during the partial phases of the eclipse — ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer to watch it safely — your camera does, too.

Remember that it’s not safe to look at the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, even when wearing protection on your eyes. That’s because optical devices can concentrate solar rays, which can then cause eye injury, according to NASA.

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