The Solar Eclipse of 2024 and Your Cellphone

Are you ready for the astronomical event of the year? The solar eclipse of 2024 will take place in Maine on April 8th between 2 and 4 PM. We at BoomerTECH Adventures are excited and preparing to view it as well. If you’d like to capture the moon’s journey across the face of the sun here are 8 tips for using the camera you’re most likely to have with you wherever you may be during the eclipse, your cellphone camera!

According to the folks at NASA you should Practice, practice, practice ahead of time!

  • Try photographing the full moon to get an idea of how large the sun-in-eclipse will appear with your smartphone’s lens. You could also experiment with a telephoto lens that attaches to your phone camera. Moon photography is a challenge because the camera will try to automatically adjust the exposure but most of the view will be the dark sky, so the moon’s disk will be overexposed and show no details. To get around this, most smartphones let you adjust with your finger where the focus and metering spots will be in the field. There are many smartphone apps that claim to have greater flexibility than the one that comes with your camera. If you are interested you have time to test as many of them as you want before the eclipse to find the right one.
  • Several apps exist for both Android smartphones and iPhones, which claim to enhance your device’s picturetaking abilities. The more test shots you can take in the days and weeks before the eclipse, the less time you will waste when the eclipse occurs! When the eclipse is under way you will have just a handful of minutes to capture it. There’s plenty of time to try out the advice below for yourself, and even to do a little more research to see what’s out there regarding your particular device. By trying the strategies out in advance you’ll be prepared and more relaxed. Plus, the likelihood of obtaining the results you want will be greatly improved.
  • Practice taking pictures and video around sunset to get a sense of what the light will be like during the event. If the location you’re planning to use is nearby, practice there.

Use a smartphone tripod to avoid a shaky video or blurry images. If you don’t already have one, get a tripod that allows you to remove and replace your phone in different positions without a lot of adjusting. You won’t have time to fiddle with a complicated system of fasteners. There is a device call a gimbal that attaches your phone to a tripod and allows you to easily adjust your camera’s frame of reference right on the tripod.  Try to get a tripod that allows you to stand up and move the camera easily while viewing the screen. Trying to capture the sky while using a tabletop tripod while lying down in the outdoors will be less than ideal.

Keep the process simple. The easiest way to capture the scene is to point your phone camera, on its tripod toward the sky and start shooting high resolution video. Although it is tempting to zoom in on the total eclipse, it will be more effective to zoom out capturing the changing environment and horizon as twilight deepens, totality occurs, and darkness recedes as the sun emerges from behind the moon’s shadow in 5-6 minutes. A bonus will be that you will have captured both the event and the soundtrack of people’s reactions to it.

When taking photos use the delay timer set at 3-5 seconds so that once you press the exposure button, the camera waits a few seconds before taking the shot. That gives your camera/tripod/clamp system plenty of time to settle down and produce vibration-free images.

If you’re taking photos remember to tap on the subject you’re capturing to bring it into focus. On many phones you can also tap and slide your finger up and down to adjust the exposure.

Check your phone’s memory far enough in advance so you can free up enough space to capture and store the images. If you run out of memory you camera will stop working and, by the time you’ve figured out what happened and located files to delete the event will have passed. You will have missed observing the eclipse and capturing it.

Speaking of memory, keep in mind that you’ll probably want to shoot your video in 4K, provided your phone is new enough. 4K video provides significantly better resolution and clarity than the previous 1080p format. The higher resolution will allow you to crop and zoom in and out without losing as much image quality. The downside is that 4K video will take up to 3 times the storage of a 1080p image.

Remember to NEVER look at the sun without appropriate safety equipment, only during “totality” when the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon can you look at the sun with the naked eye. At all other times observers will need to wear solar eclipse glasses.

If you plan to photograph the eclipse with your cell phone, you need to get a solar filter for it. They are available many places including Amazon. Telescopes and binoculars must also have solar filters placed in front of their lenses at all times when used to view any partial eclipse of the sun.

 

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