Solar Photo Practice

In light of the upcoming Venus transit, I figured it would be a good idea to practice before the event, so as to not make a fumbling mess of it at the last minute. Now, I don’t own a proper solar filter, and unique though as this event is going to be (more than a hundred years until next time), I’m not quite prepared to shell out a minor fortune on one unless I have to. So I’ve decided to improvise.

Venus Transit (2004)
Venus transit 2004

I already have a pair of solar eclipse protective glasses, the same ones that I used for the previous Venus transit in 2004. The only problem is that they’re much too small to cover the business end of my 300mm lens. But then someone suggested the protective glass plate from a welding mask which, like the solar eclipse protective glasses, is only barely transparent. It’s pretty cheap too (NOK 23 or about US$ 4 apiece, when you buy them without the whole mask attached), big enough to cover that which needeth covering, and it’s no trouble fitting it in place with two pieces of sticky tape.

It’s good enough that I get sunspots. I’ve never taken a picture of a sunspot before!

I got sunspots!


What I find to be a problem, though, is that the glass is aboout 2mm thick, and seems to blur the image just a tiny bit. That, and with my 300mm lens being the cheapest sort, and the auto focus having its own opinions as to how well it wants to work, greatly increases the number of takes before one finally gets a decent shot, which does make the job slightly frustrating.

Plus the Sun turns out a rather alien green, which I’m not entirely sure that I like at all. Looks unhealthy.

Solar Photo Practice
Click the image for bigger version

So I decided to try with the solar eclipse glasses instead. They’re smaller, about a third the diameter needed, so I covered the rest of the lens with my hand as best as I could, and lo and behold, it worked! I had to up the exposure, suggesting that the eclipse glasses are more efficient than the welding filter, but I got focus in just two attempts, and the result is a lovely orange disc, complete with sunspots, and that wee little bit more sharpness. Home run!

I’ll have to make some sort of frame for the glasses. Cardboard should do the trick. I already have the sticky tape.

You know, I think this might work.

I think I may have a date with Venus.

Weather permitting.

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