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Matinee: 'Solar Eclipse Imaging' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

12 August 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 200th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Solar Eclipse Imaging Techniques and Advanced Eclipse Imaging with Adobe's Russell Brown. What better way could there be to celebrate the 200th milestone than with a celestial event?


In both videos Brown works with 2012 total eclipse photography by Mr. Eclipse himself, Fred Espenak.

In the first, which runs about 14 minutes, Brown starts with three essential Web sites to visit before the big day, including one that will tell you what the weather will be. Here, for your convenience, are those links:

Then we look at nine bracketed exposures that change shutter speed over the two-minute total eclipse. (Brown recommends forgetting the camera and using binoculars to enjoy your first eclipse, but be sure to protect your eyes by wearing solar glasses if you do.)

Espenak shot those as Raw images, so Brown uses Camera Raw to process them all simultaneously. He opens up the Shadows, cranks up the Clarity, adds Sharpening (careful not to sharpen any noise) and does some Noise Reduction. He also removes Chromatic Aberrations. And all in 16-bit channels.

Instead of merging the bracketing images to HDR, Brown takes a different approach, loading each exposure into a different layer of a single file. Then he converts them all to a Smart Object so he can use the Mean blend mode.

That minimizes if not eliminates the noise in the object. And renders the image you were expecting to see with the dark moon outlined by the sun's corona.

One more step. He goes back to Camera Raw to fine tune the image.


In the second video, which runs about 10 minutes, Brown demonstrates two more techniques: how to align your bracketed images and how to sharpen the image without introducing noise.

And, as you might expect, Brown doesn't do either the way you might imagine.

Alignment is accomplished by selecting all but the bottom layer and changing the mode to Difference. He then turns off the visibility of those layers, activating each until he finds one that's misaligned. He uses the arrow keys to nudge it into position.

Brown then shows you how to use the Rulers set to show percentages to align the composite image in the center of the frame.

To sharpen the image, Brown relies on Calculations, which (he points out) go back to Photoshop 1.0 in 1990.

First, he flattens the image into one layer and then duplicates it. The duplicate gets a Radial Blur at 20 with a method of Thin and Quality set to Best. He just wants to blur the corona, he explains.

He runs his Calcuations on that, telling you exactly what to set. That creates what looks like a gray 3D representation of the corona. That gets pasted into a separate layer and, with the blend mode set to Overlay, combines with the original image only to add the sharpened corona to the photo.

And if one layer looks good, he always says, two layers might look better. So he duplicates the corona layer to double its effect.


To help with the capture itself (which he doesn't discuss), Brown defers to Fred Espenak. Which will keep you off the street a little longer.

You might also enjoy the 23-minute presentation by Mike Shaw titled You Can Photograph the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017! Shaw covers setup for both wide angle and telephoto focal lengths, including links to acquire the equipment you'll need to track the sun.

You can also Fly Along With the Shadow, which depicts the shadow of the moon as it will travel east on Aug. 21. Two things appealed to us about this video: 1) it shows the names of the cities in the shadow's path and 2) it shows just how long the shadow takes to pass over (pretty quickly).

However you approach the big event, we'll be rooting for you here in the fog belt. Good luck!

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