The Great American Eclipse Preparation, Part 1: Making a Solar Filter for Camera
I made my first reservation related to Great American Eclipse travel in September 2016 …like a big nerd. Now that it is almost here, along with growing media coverage including its own section in the New York Times last Sunday, I have to make sure my preparations are squared away. Like the teacher I am, I approached this eclipse viewing “project” like I would a unit of study. There’s research, a sequence of tasks that build to a culminating event, there’s materials I need, and, I’m sure, there will be some means of expressing what I’ve learned through the experience–reflection and connection to life’s bigger meaning, yadda yadda yadda.
One of the tasks I needed to take care of was to create a solar filter for my camera. The sun is a pretty big deal. It’s like Medusa, you can’t just look at it. And through a camera, it can cause blindness. No thanks on that! Equip your camera with a solar filter and you can photograph the eclipse safely. (But don’t forget to wear your solar glasses to protect your real “viewfinders.”)
So here is how I made a solar filter for my Nikon DSLR. First, head to a hardware store that has plumbing supples. You want to locate the PVC Coupling and Adaptors section. If you go to the Home Depot for convenience, there’s likely a huge shelf with a ton of similarly looking PVC pieces. And plenty will be in the wrong spot. Bring your camera to test your fitting before you buy it. The goal is to get a fitting whose smaller end will easily slide onto your lens. (The larger 3X4 adaptor (on the bottom, below) would be for my DSLR. The smaller I would use for another camera I have if I have any spare solar filter paper leftover.)
You’ll also want to stay in the plumbing section to pick up Hose Barb (those metal things up there) that will fit on the larger end of your fitting. You will be securing the solar filter sheet on the wider end with the Hose Barb, so check the diameter before you buy. You do not want your solar filter flimsy or insecure.
Did I mention that you have to buy solar filter sheet? Yes, that is the most important part. It’s easiest to get this on Amazon, though don’t you just hate buying things from Amazon all the time? I sure do. Once the robot delivers you your solar filter sheet on God’s day, you can get to work on completing the filter. It’s pretty easy. You want to place the filter paper (mirrored side up) on the top of the larger opening of the fitting. Open up your Hose Barb so that it loosely fits around the fitting on top of the filter sheet. Then use a screwdriver to tighten the Hose Barb as tight as you can get it. Do not worry about the surface getting a bit crinkly; that is not a big deal and will have no impact on your pictures. You do want to make sure the filter paper is cared for. You don’t want any rips or holes of any size that will allow light in.
Since the camera will be on a tripod angled towards the sun, this filter will be secure. And it will be easy to remove quickly during the moment of the eclipse’s totality, when the sun will be completely blocked by the moon. Just as it will be easy to put it right back on as the sun begins to peek out again.
Let’s hear it for D.I.Y.!
On my first trial, this is what I came up with. The filter helped me photograph the sun pretty well! This was a beautiful sunny day with a bright blue sky. Though I still have to do a couple of more trials playing around with the settings, this is a great start.
Let’s do this, Sun!