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Solar Eclipse Landscape Timelapse Ideas?

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#1 DanSchafer
I'm planning a wide angle (maybe 24mm) landscape time lapse during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 in North America (facing the sun). In this really good example --  
--Witek Kaskin seems to keep his exposure settings constant, letting everything except a small ring go black during totality.  I think this is very effective with his cool landscape and I may end up using constant exposure for mine, but part of his success is due to the reflection on the water, which I won't have.  Also, I have an other-worldly type of landscape in mind and it would be cool to retain more landscape definition and to see stars (even if only very briefly) during totality. The problem is that totality only lasts two minutes so there's not much time for ramping or for long exposures.  I think that 4 second intervals are the longest I could afford so that totality is more than just a blink in time; 1.6 seconds at 24 frames per second, specifically. (My current plan is to shoot from one hour before to one hour after the eclipse and then, possibly, to speed up the non-eclipse parts in Premiere Pro.)

I'm wondering if others are thinking about this or have thoughts about whether and how to change shutter speeds.  I'd be interested in any discussion people might have about making a timelapse of a solar eclipse, but I'm particularly interested in wide-angle shooting and these questions:

1) What do you think about the tradeoff between getting sufficient frames during totality and having a long enough exposure time to capture stars?  Is a 3 second exposure long enough to get worthwhile stars (with small aperature and high ISO)?

2) Do you have any thoughts about auto holy grail in qdslrdashboard for this purpose? I suspect that maybe the shutter speeds and ISO have to be changed manually because the darkness will come and go so quickly, and the histogram will be too heavily influenced by the sun, which will have to blow out anyway. 

Now that I've written these questions, I realize that there's some experimentation I should do. I still think there might be others who are thinking about this and that a discussion might be beneficial to many. 


Thanks,
Dan
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#2 Warg44
[quote pid='33502' dateline='1497464380']

1) What do you think about the tradeoff between getting sufficient frames during totality and having a long enough exposure time to capture stars?  Is a 3 second exposure long enough to get worthwhile stars (with small aperature and high ISO)?

2) Do you have any thoughts about auto holy grail in qdslrdashboard for this purpose? I suspect that maybe the shutter speeds and ISO have to be changed manually because the darkness will come and go so quickly, and the histogram will be too heavily influenced by the sun, which will have to blow out anyway. 

[/quote]

Hi Dan,

I'm definitely thinking about it.  I plan on capturing some stills and timelapse during the event and I've been pondering the same challenges.

Regarding question 1:  My personal preference is to concentrate on the solar event.  If I get some stars, great.  If not, I'm cool with that.  To answer your question though, I think you could capture some of the brighter stars if you were shooting with a fast enough lens at a high-enough ISO.  As for "worthwhile" -- that's up to you.  I think it's possible to capture the planet Venus in the frame -- which I think would be pretty cool.  There is also a star called Regulus which will be close to the sun but maybe too close.

Regarding question 2:  I'm leaning towards NOT using auto holy grail because I don't think it was designed to handle such rapid and dramatic changes in light.  So that leaves me with the question of how to handle things.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet but:  
  • Option 1:  HDR timelapse.  Sounds good in theory but it triples my data storage requirements, depletes my batteries faster, and makes me worry that the slowest shutter speed (to get a decent "dark" HDR exposure might require a 1" shutter speed at ISO 100) might be too slow and cause problems with the time lapse.  I haven't ruled this out yet, but I'm not sure I need the headache.
  • Option 2:  Shoot in Aperture Priority with matrix metering and hope that I can mitigate flicker in post.  
  • Option 3: Use a hardware and/or software solution to do some scripted ramping.  (Too bad QDLSRDash can't run custom scripts)
Right now, I'm leaning towards Option 2 because I'm worried about power and storage capacity.  That might change after I run some tests though.
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#3 DanSchafer
Thanks, Warg44!  Your comments helped me a lot.  I agree with you that the stars should be secondary and that auto holy grail probably won't work.  I'm not sure about aperature priority.  If you start photographing into the sun at f8 and 1/4000, say, what will the shutter speed be at totality?   I don't know how much effect the ring of sunlight will have on the matrix metering, but if it's 10 or 20 seconds or more, that's probably too long to get suficient frames during the most critical part of the eclipse. Also, it may produce too bright of a scene during "darkness" and may have exposures that change too rapidly to use lrtimelapse "smoothing."  With HDR, you might go with something like 3 exposures at 1/4000, 1/500, and 1/60.  Hmmm...that's interesting, but the processing might be difficult.  One other option is to use manual holy grail with qdslr dashboard; i.e. sit with your tablet and manually change shutter speed and aperature as needed, but being sure not to change settings too quickly and leaving the image somewhat underexposed during the main part of the eclipse. What we'd need to think about is what aperature and shutter speed to use before the eclipse starts (correctly exposed for daylight but with sun blow out), and at totality (underexposed but with some details showing), and when to make changes so they don't happen too fast.  The last two steps have to be considered together and figured out in advance. Too bad there's not a solar eclipse coming up in the next  week or two so we can practice!
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#4 Haystackmac
(2017-07-25, 23:58)DanSchafer Wrote: Thanks, Warg44!  Your comments helped me a lot.  I agree with you that the stars should be secondary and that auto holy grail probably won't work.  I'm not sure about aperature priority.  If you start photographing into the sun at f8 and 1/4000, say, what will the shutter speed be at totality?   I don't know how much effect the ring of sunlight will have on the matrix metering, but if it's 10 or 20 seconds or more, that's probably too long to get suficient frames during the most critical part of the eclipse. Also, it may produce too bright of a scene during "darkness" and may have exposures that change too rapidly to use lrtimelapse "smoothing."  With HDR, you might go with something like 3 exposures at 1/4000, 1/500, and 1/60.  Hmmm...that's interesting, but the processing might be difficult.  One other option is to use manual holy grail with qdslr dashboard; i.e. sit with your tablet and manually change shutter speed and aperature as needed, but being sure not to change settings too quickly and leaving the image somewhat underexposed during the main part of the eclipse. What we'd need to think about is what aperature and shutter speed to use before the eclipse starts (correctly exposed for daylight but with sun blow out), and at totality (underexposed but with some details showing), and when to make changes so they don't happen too fast.  The last two steps have to be considered together and figured out in advance. Too bad there's not a solar eclipse coming up in the next  week or two so we can practice!
Dan,

Setting aside the partial portions of the eclipse, www.mreclipse.com/SEphoto/SEphoto.mtml has a good baseline Exposure Guide for totality, which is really the only interesting part, to me (I do understand that your goal is for a whole landscape time lapse for the partial and total eclipse). This guide is a starting point and could change depending on weather factors. As you can see, there is a lot more going on between C2 and C3, which require specific exposures and does not allow for a simple ramping process.

There is another issue as well for anyone zooming in. During the approximately 2 minutes of totality the sun will move across the sky the equivalence of 1 solar disk diameter. Therefore, shutter speeds slower than about 1/4 sec or greater (varies according to aperture, zoom lens speed, and magnification) will begin to blur unless you are on a motorized equatorial mount. The degree of precision needed is high, the learning curve to set it up correctly to the north star is steep, and the cost probably does not warrant buying such a mount on such short notice.

That said, and based on the exposure guide, I can see that no currently existing APP based bramping, ramping, or bracketing strategy would work for the 2 minute totality portion of the solar eclipse. If you have never shot, much less seen, a total eclipse, I have been told that you do not want to miss the experience while trying to fix a problem in a complex set-up. You will likely miss the whole experience trying to get a time lapse of totality.

I am very interested in simply learning how to photograph the totality for the first time. I have a Sony a7s with FE 100-400 GS f4.5-5.6, a 2x teleconverter, and it can link by Wi-Fi to SLR Dashboard. It also has some camera based time lapse and bracketing Apps.

Base mostly on the Solar Eclipse guide and other information, I would like to use a pre-determined script with specific shutter speeds and ISO settings for about 35 800 mm captures beginning at C2 Bailey's beads, and running the script forward through each eclipse feature to maximum totality, then backwards again through C3 Bailey's beads. I will not use a speed slower than 1/8 or 1/4 sec. I would also like to use ISO 400 and ISO 800 for each feature.

The problem is, I can fine no way, in camera or out, to set up such a script. I see no APP that can do this. While DSLR Dashboard comes closest, the interval controller in DSLR Dashboard does not control separate camera features such as aperture, shutter, or ISO.

The tool that I see missing is an APP (or module in DSLR Dashboard) that can be scripted to set up a series of N captures with independently programmable preset interval times, independently programmable preset shutter speeds, and independently programmable preset bracketing ranges for each capture. DSLR Dashboard does not allow for this as far as I can see. LRTimelapse within DSLR Dashboard only allows for manually changing exposure in real time. With such short intervals, this is not doable. And even if it were, I want to watch the eclipse, myself.

Does anyone know of a way to do this. I would very much appreciate any feedback. Thank you.
Steve MacFarlane
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#5 DanSchafer
Steve, Have you looked into Solar Eclipse Maestro? I had the impression that you pre-program scripts with that. I also recommend the $10 e-book "How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse" by Alan Dyer, which is loaded with information, including wide-angle and close-up timelapse suggestions.

...also check out: