Sunday Solar Eclipse: How to Safely Photograph the Sun
The eclipsed sun appeared like a fat, flaming sickle as it set behind a large cargo ship in this portrait obtained by Jett Aguilar from Manila Bay, Philippines, on January 26, 2009.
Credit: Jett Aguilar

Editor's Note: See the first photos and accounts of Sunday's solar eclipse by eclipse chasers here: Rare Solar Eclipse Wows Skywatchers Across Atlantic, Africa (Photos)

On Sunday (Nov. 3) early risers along the east coast of the United States and beyond will be treated to a spectacular sunrise eclipse, provided the weather is clear.

How much of the sun's face will be covered by the moon at maximum solar eclipse will depend on your location — the farther inland or south you go, the less crescent-shaped the sun will be. For example, observers in Boston and New York will see up to 54 and 48 percent of the sun obscured, respectively, while in Miami it's going to be 37 percent.

The last time a solar eclipse was widely visible from the United States was during the annular, or "ring" eclipse on May 20 last year. After this year's event, the next partial solar eclipse won't be seen in the country until October 23, 2014. [How to Safely Photograph the Nov. 3 Solar Eclipse (Photo Guide)]

If you don't have a chance to see the eclipse from your part of the world, you can watch the cosmic rarity live on courtesy of the online community observatory The eclipse event begins at 6:45 a.m. EST (1515 GMT) and will run throughout the entirety of the eclipse.

This weekend's eclipse offers photographers an opportunity for some dramatic landscape compositions — the partial eclipse will already be at maximum as the sun emerges over the southeastern horizon at dawn, appearing like a fat, flaming sickle rising above the Atlantic to those watching along the coast.

Here are some tips on how to capture this wondrous solar eclipse photo-op:

WARNING: Never stare directly at the sun without a proper, safe filter. Failure to do so can result in serious eye injury or permanent blindness. No. 14 welder's glass filter is acceptable, but ordinary sunglasses and polarizing or neutral-density filters used in regular photography are not safe and should not be used.

  • Look for a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern sky. If you are planning to use a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, shoot through a telescope or telephoto lens with a focal length of 400 millimeters or more to give you a fairly large image of the sun's disk in the frame.
  • To get steady shots, use a sturdy tripod or mount to support your camera setup. Don't try to hand-hold it.
  • Don't forget to use a large-capacity memory card and set the camera to its highest resolution so you can capture as much detail and color information as possible. Consult your camera manual on how to change the settings.
  • Switch your camera mode from Auto (A) to Manual (M) so you'll be able to control its focus as well as lens aperture, shutter speed and white-balance settings.
  • Remember to focus carefully to get sharp images. Use your camera's Live View feature, if it has one, to achieve accurate focus. You can pre-focus the camera (without the solar filter) before the eclipse using Mars or Jupiter or a bright star. Otherwise, you can focus on distant ships or clouds along the horizon; you can also use the sun's edge or sunspots (viewed through the solar filter) on the morning of the eclipse.
  • To minimize vibrations that can blur your images, use your camera's mirror lock-up feature before each shot. You should also operate the shutter with an electronic cable release to eliminate camera shake. Keep your exposures very short by using a high ISO setting (400 or higher).
  • Use the "bracketing" technique for your exposures — that is, taking a series of shots at various shutter speeds and/or apertures. This will increase your chances of getting the appropriate exposure for the scene you're interested in.
  • Make sure your camera battery is fully charged, and keep a spare one handy, just in case. You don't want to get that flashing low-battery icon at the critical time.
  • Be sure to test your camera setup before the eclipse. If possible, take some trial shots of the sun to give you an idea on what exposure settings to use with your particular telescope/filter combination.
  • When composing your shot, try to include some interesting elements in your foreground, such as a lighthouse or sailboat silhouetted against the horizon, or people strolling on the beach.
  • After the eclipse, be sure to download your images to your computer and back-up all your files right away. Keep the originals in a separate folder or drive and process only copies of the images. Use editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to enhance the images' brightness, contrast, sharpness and color balance. You can also "stitch" the frames together to create an eclipse sequence.

Good luck, and let's hope for clear skies on Sunday!

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of Sunday's solar eclipse or any other celestial sight that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at

Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre are veteran eclipse chasers with 10 successful expeditions to date (eight total solar eclipses and two annulars). Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on