A Partial Solar Eclipse

A Partial Solar EclipseA Partial Solar Eclipse
CameraFujifilm FinePix A900
Exposure Modeauto
Focal Length35.2mm
Exposure1/1024 sec.
ISO Speed100
I took this photo back in 2008 when the UK last saw a partial solar eclipse. It was a work day and I'd forgotten about the eclipse until I arrived at work, which meant that I only had the small camera with me. I thought this was going to put an end to any photography as I wouldn't have enough control over the camera to get a decent photo. I assumed that to photograph a partial solar eclipse I would need to work with a very fast shutter speed to stop the image being completely blown out. Unfortunately the FinePix A900 doesn't have any manual controls, fortunately though the weather decided to help out a little.

I suppose it should have come as no great surprise that the day of the eclipse was cloudy -- I live in England after all! So I decided to try and use the clouds as a filter to cut down the amount of light reaching the camera and hence compensate for the lack of manual options on the camera. There were just two problems with this approach. Even wearing sunglasses and with clouds the sun is way too bright to look at directly which makes pointing the camera in the right direction more than a little difficult. The second problem was with the camera, and I don't know if this is limited to just the finePix A900 or to digital cameras in general. The problem seems to be that the LCD screen can't handle huge amounts of light. While the photos that I took are okay (only one of the twenty was usable but none of the rest showed any problems) when I pointed the camera at the sun the LCD went crazy. I'm assuming that what I was seeing was some form of buffer overflow manifesting itself as large purple blocks on the screen. At first I was worried that I'd damaged the CCD and had killed the camera, but as I said the photos are fine, and once you point the camera away from the sun it settles down and goes back to normal.

A Partial Solar EclipseGiven the problems involved in taking the photo I was quite impressed that I managed to get even a single usable image. The photo on the left is the original before I did some processing to it for this weeks post. The first thing I did was to crop the image to both make the sun larger in the frame and to give more prominence to the interesting coloured clouds in the top left. I assume that the colours in the clouds are an artifact from the camera as I don't remember them being that colour on the day. Artifact or not the colours in the clouds do add to the photo and I decided to make them more obvious by increasing the saturation of the image (I actually used the Smart Photo Fix dialog in PaintShop Pro with settings of -40, 45, 40, 60 and 0). The final processing step was to apply the single step noise removal option to soften the image a little.

The clouds in the final image reminded me a little of some of the famous images returned by the Hubble space telescope and I was more than a little surprised to read this week that the telescope has just turned 20 years old after being launched back in 1990.


GB said...

That's a catch of a photo if ever there was one. I'd have been more than happy to show it in its original state.

Post a Comment