I have had a bunch of questions on how I photographed the Venus Transit a few days ago, so I figured Id do a little write-up here to share my technique. Here is the image that I captured of this rare event:
First off, I want to warn you never to look at the sun through a magnified lens. Doing so could result in instant blindness or even a melted eyeball, which would definitely not be awesome, so just take my word for it and please don’t try it. Anytime you are photographing the sun, always use your cameras “live view” mode. Also remember that focused light from the sun can be strong enough to melt your camera, especially through some of the bigger lenses like the 600mm, 800mm, or larger, so be careful and dont point your camera at the sun for too long. Also the best time to shoot the sun is when it is low on the horizon. That way the Earths atmosphere will help diffuse the intense light emanating from the solar disk.
Ok, so the main challenge with a shot like this is being able to record the highlight data spewing out from the giant ball of gas in the sky we call our Sun. The second challenge here is having a long enough lens to magnify the solar disk so that you can record an image that has enough detail for it to be usable. Now, it should probably go without saying that yes, I have a nice camera, but it isnt the top of the line model by any means. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and my longest lens is the Canon 70-200 2.8L USM II paired with the Canon Extender 2x II. I love the setup I have but I will say that its pretty standard and nothing special in the professional photography world. It definitely has its limitations that could only be corrected with some nice big expensive glass. It would be totally awesome to have a big lens in my inventory, but I don’t, so I make the best with the gear I do have. Anyways, To get this shot, I also used a Century Circular Polarizer and a Century ND.6 Solid Filter. The filters acted like sunglasses for my camera and dimmed the light from the sun by a total of 6 stops, allowing me to use a sharper aperture like f18. Here is the pic of my exact setup for the Venus Transit taken with my EVO 3D Smarphone:
My Camera settings were as follows:
Shutter Speed: 1/8000
I may have been able to capture the shot without the use of a second filter, but the extra filter enabled me to use an aperture value of f18, which is still in the window of what I would call “acceptably sharp” for the Canon 70-200mm 2.8L USM II. Without the second filter, I would have had to use a smaller aperture like F64, which would have caused a lot of image distortion due to light diffraction. Since the image is %100 cropped in, small amounts of distortion make all the difference in whether or not an image is usable in the end, so using a sharp aperture is essential. One last thing is to use Manual Focus. When you are photographing the sun, because the strong sunlight will be blasting your AF system, there will not be enough contrast for it to function properly, so you will need to focus manually. Its pretty simple with live view enabled, just make sure you zoom in as far as you can in live view and focus from there till its as sharp as you can get it.
Ok so the keys to remember when photographing the sun are:
A – Fast shutter speed
B – Small Aperture (But not too small) I would say anything between f8-f22 would be acceptably sharp
C – A minimum of one ND filter, 2 works much better
D – A tripod
E – Manual Focus
Well there you go, thats how I captured the Venus Transit. We are going into the most active year in our 10 year solar cycle, so dont forget you can use this technique to capture any solar event, including sunspots.
I am currently working on putting together several workshops that I will be offering this fall. Il have more info after I return from Africa next month so stay tuned.