Most full moons, I try in vain to take a photo of our nearest celestial companion, and wind up posting something terribly blurry on Instagram. But even my best shots don’t depict what the scene feels like; I can only hope to preserve a piece of that feeling. So for something as rare and fleeting as a total eclipse, should I even try?
Eclipse chasers are mixed on this, and many say eclipse novices shouldn’t bother; not only will the photo feel insufficient, it’s not worth missing the show just to put something on Insta. But they almost all agree on one thing: Take photos and videos of your surroundings, even if it’s just on your smartphone. You’ll enjoy having a chronicle of what you and your companions did when the moon’s shadow came barreling toward you at more than 1,600 miles an hour, and how you reacted when the sun disappeared. (If you do take photos, send them our way, and we’ll highlight them in our Instagram story!)
If you want photos of the partial eclipse, you need special solar filters on your camera, which block almost all of the sun’s harmful light. NEVER photograph the sun directly without these filters! When the sun is 100 percent eclipsed, in “totality,” you’re fine to take them off, and to remove your eclipse glasses. But for the average viewer with an iPhone, how do you know when to do so? Darren Nilsen of Sterling, Virginia, wonders how he’ll know it’s okay to look at the sun from the path of totality in Carthage, Tennessee:
As we will be in the path of totality we should be able to safely remove our solar eclipse glasses during the two-plus minutes of totality. My question is: How will we know when it is safe to remove our glasses? Having never seen a total eclipse I wanted to make sure we don't remove our glasses too early (or certainly too late). I'm considering purchasing an atomic clock so that I can time it, but I didn't know if there were better/cheaper options or if it will just be apparent at the time of the eclipse that we can remove our glasses.
It’s a good question, and fortunately the answer is simple: You'll know it's safe because it will get so dark. You will see the moon's shadow racing toward you, and when it envelops you, you'll know. Take the glasses off at that point, and look up. When to put them back on is a bit more tricky. For that, you may want to start a timer, assuming you know just how long totality will last at your location. To find that out, you can check this map by a French cartographer and eclipse chaser.