Capturing the June 2020 Eclipse from the desert of Saudi Arabia




How many times have you seen an eclipse actually happening, live? As far as I know, I probably have witnessed a solar eclipse not more than five times in my life, or maybe even less. An eclipse is location dependent and so may be visible to some regions but not anywhere else.





    A rare astronomical event


    In the Philippines, there had been only five total solar eclipses from the last century and 31 partial solar eclipses since the year 1901 to date. It is that rare and that's part of the reasons why it's so exciting to witness (at least for me).


    Simple and old ways to look at an eclipse: water basin and film negative


    I learned this when I was kid, probably from Sineskwela or Ka Ernie Baron. You get a basin (palanggana) filled with water and you look at the eclipse's reflection on the water. This was how I first saw an eclipse in the Philippines. 

    Another method is to use film negatives which act as a filter (think sunglasses). You may need to stack a few negatives as necessary.



    Photographing an eclipse


    I learned about today's eclipse a week ago in an article from Arab News. I knew there's no way I can photograph it with a smartphone so I thought of bringing a bigger camera




    I didn't bring a tripod and any filter (neutral density or ND filters) and had to improvise. 

    Essentially, a zoom lens (one with long focal length) is the most ideal and I used my 18-135mm lens.

    As for the settings, since I didn't have any filter, I had to dial everything up or down to get as dim exposure as I could: fastest shutter speed , lowest ISO, and aperture to its narrowest (highest f number).

    Canon 60D settings:

    Shutter Speed: 1/8000
    ISO: 100
    Aperture: 36
    Timer: 2-second delay (my remote's battery is dead)


    Know the time of the eclipse


    The solar eclipse was visible from a little past 7:00 AM and peaked at around 8:30 AM. That's within our work time. Fortunately, we were vacant at these times due to reasons.


    Sky conditions

    Summer in Saudi Arabia, especially in this region, generally mean a totally clear sky. No clouds will hinder the view, no haze, and is perfect for spotting the sun being eclipsed by the moon. 

    Though I suppose some clouds, just not on the sun itself, would also be good and would add some dramatic effects (but would still be underexposed).


    Improvise

    I taped a pair of sunglasses on the lens to act as filter.

    I looked for some rocks to cradle my camera on to be able to aim the camera towards the sun. The sand was good in supporting and holding the camera in position.

    A pair of sunglasses wasn't enough so I added another pair and the view was more than acceptable for me. Minus the chromatic aberration (pinkish light around the sun), I thought the images were okay and a good remembrance. 


    Photos: Capturing the eclipse

    The DSLR was just a viewing instrument and I barely took photos with it. I documented with my phone instead.




    With a single layer of sunglasses, the sun's light is still blown out.


    Adding a second filter.



    Adding a second pair of shades to act as filter, the sun's light is reduced.


    Selfie.







    The size of the eclipse at max 135mm focal length


    Cropped


    Cropped even further. 



    Here's a short time lapse of the eclipse ascending. (It was a live preview from the camera which turned off automatically thus the cut.)



    Conclusion


    It's a rare experience to see an actual eclipse happening and able to keep a record of it. Despite its rarity, an eclipse is something the general population would not give attention and time to and would rather read or watch an astrologer or Feng Sui master give predictions about their life. 

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