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The Total Solar Eclipse of 2024

Sometime early in 2023, I read that there would be a solar eclipse that was visible from North America. I had never planned anything photography-related before then, but I knew this was an event I didn't want to miss out on. I began researching options for the eclipse and learned that the farther south (in general), the less chance of rain. I wanted to pick a place our family could visit comfortably, but not one in a major area or destination where we'd be elbow-to-elbow. I found a house to rent at reasonable prices (they may not have known about the eclipse at the time, or they may just be gracious hosts) in Hot Springs, Arizona.

A river with the sun setting in the distance
Hot Springs, AR by our rented house

The original plan was for my wife to join me along with our daughter and son-in-law. His deployments and my wife's surgery forced us to shuffle our plans around a bit. It ended up being just my daughter and me, which is never a tough sell or me. As a bonus, her husband had returned so although we couldn't get him a ticket, I was able to spend time with him while I was connecting through Denver. I essentially nested two trips, one that took me to Denver to pick up and drop off my daughter, and one that took us to Little Rock for our excursion.

The two toughest parts of planning were choosing the gear and deciding what I wanted to capture. My gear limited my simultaneous setups, so I had to choose what to focus on. Add to that the fact I have never photographed an eclipse before, and you can imagine the uncertainty going into the eclipse. It wasn't any help that the forecasts kept showing rain right up until the day of the eclipse. The rain showers did eventually come, but they were kind enough to wait until after the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Gear

For this trip I did not want to check or ship any gear, so I had to choose between lighter, more portable components and imaging the eclipse.

A suitcase packed with cameras, cables, and more.
My suitcase. Just enough room for clothes!

In the end, I decided on the following configuration:

  • The Coronado PST 40mm solar telescope with a 400mm aperture, effectively 1,000mm or more with the addition of a TeleVue PowerMate 2.5x.

  • The William Optics Redcat 71, a fast 350mm wider field scope with solid optics that I could extend to just over 800mm with the same PowerMate.

  • My Sony A7R IV 60MP camera along with lenses for 20mm (Rokinon), 50mm and 135mm (Samyang).

  • My ZWO ASI294MM Pro astrophotography camera

  • The ZWO AM5 harmonic equatorial mount

  • A mini-graphite tripod

  • Power cells to charge things in case of a power outage

The Game Plan for the Total Eclipse

The game plan was simple. Using the mount, I would track the sun with the Coronado PST 40mm solar scope and grab images of the solar surface in rich detail. Simultaneously, my camera on a static tripod would be aligned with a field of view in the sky to capture phases of the eclipse as the moon traveled by. When we neared totality, I would swap the solar scope for my 420mm refractor with a Barlow lens on the mount to get an effective focal length of nearly 1 meter to catch totality. As a stretch goal, I would consider swapping to a wide-angle lens to take a longer exposure and try to catch a comet, too.

How it Really Worked

Surprisingly, things when really well. I wasn't in perfect focus, but "close enough" and was able to capture the two "money shots" of the eclipse.

An eclipse effect that looks like a diamond ring
"The Proposal"

The first shot is when the moon is just shy of covering the sun, so a burst of light at the edge glows like a diamond. The second shot is the common shot you can only get during totality in a solar eclipse: the corona.

A picture of the filaments surrounding the sun

With a fast exposure on the solar telescope, I can grab the details of the solar surface. With a slower (longer) exposure, the surface is oversaturated and washed out, but the edges solar flares ("prominences") in much more detail. By subtracting one from the other I can achieve this effect:

A crescent sun
The Tail of Totality

So far, this picture was selected as a "top pick" at and is a candidate for image of the day!

For more from the eclipse, check out this 10-minute video recap I produced:

In my next blog post, I'll share my experience spending the night on a bluff near Otter Rock, and the images I was able to capture.

Until then,

DSW Galleries LLC

This post contains affiliate links that may generate commissions. 100% of commissions go back into DSW Galleries LLC to fund prints, equipment, etc.


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