Solar eclipse 2024

New York, NY, USA

Partial eclipse

Solar eclipse with the sun around 90% covered

New York City, New York, United States

The hard thing about photographing the sun is that it’s bright. Very, very bright. Almost certainly brighter than everything else in your scene. And aiming your camera straight at a nearby star with a lot of optics designed to focus all that energy right on the delicate electronic innards of your camera isn’t great for the sensor either.

So I followed the advice of the experts, and invested in an ND10000 neutral density filter to protect my gear and cut the sun’s brightness down to manageable levels. It worked. Unfortunately, it also made for a very dull image.

Things might have been a little less dull if I’d actually been in the path of totality, where taking pictures of the eclipse becomes a more practical proposition (at least during the few minutes when the solar disk is fully covered by the moon). Unfortunately, at the point of fullest coverage, the sun was only about 90% covered by the moon, which meant that I was forced to use my filter, with somewhat disappointing results.

I’d hoped that the picture might reveal some interesting detail – mountains on the lunar rim, sunspots or solar prominences – but nothing showed up. That may be in part because my camera’s autofocus didn’t like being asked to focus on one extremely bright object through a filter so dark that it might as well have been solid black, forcing me to focus manually instead. Or it may simply be that my lens is a 12-year-old refurb consumer zoom lens, and not exactly the sharpest thing around when it’s at full magnification.

Maybe by the time the next eclipse rolls around, I’ll buy myself a better lens …