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Griffith Observatory and the Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipses are a rare event, and of course, when we found out about the eclipse on May 20th, 2012 we just had to photograph it. But while we have photographed many night skies with very little light, how do you photograph day skies with an abundance of light? For instance, the light needed to be reduced to less than .001% of the existing light, just to be able to look at it without going partially blind. (I have some very dark glasses, and they still let 3% of the light through, meaning they let 3,000 times more light though than what is safe. With a number 4 neutral density filter, this is the darkest I could get my camera to shoot.

Obviously, we were going to need something very dark to put in front of the lens. I hastily dug out a welding filter that I had in the garage, combined with a ND4 filter provided enough attenuation to the sun to allow for photography. Originally, Vanessa and I were planning to hike Mount San Jacinto for this special viewing, but upon realizing that the mountain would be close to 100 degrees on Sunday, we opted to head up to Griffith Observatory instead.

The observatory turned out to be packed, and we had to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up. No worries though, because I had my pack I was planning to use for the our previously cancelled hike. It really is cool to see so many people interested in seeing this event!

Of course, my goal for was to learn more about taking a time lapse of the sun. Moral of the story: Taking photos of the sun is HARD. I had imagined it to be like night sky photos, just select your composition, and let the camera do the rest. Boy was I wrong. Since you can only let a tiny little bit of light into the camera, everything else is just black. As it turns out even the cool features of the sun are too dim to just see without special filters. Despite not really having the best filter for the job, we did manage to take a few decent photos, and we really learned a lot about solar photography.

The best part, however, was being able to share this experience with others. It turned out that our hastily rigged up welding mask on camera set still attracted those who otherwise could not see the eclipse. Griffith had run out of solar glasses, and despite the multitude of people using various devices to see the astronomical event, there was no shortage of onlookers wanting a chance to look through our funny contraption.

For more images check out

Earth Sky

Bad Astronomy

This sweet video by Cory Poole