Capturing the Solar Eclipse with a GoPro
On Monday, August 21st 2017, people across the United States will be witness to a total eclipse...of the heart. Just kidding. It's a real eclipse. (But, in fairness, Bonnie Tyler is actually scheduled to sing her classic world-wide hit on a Caribbean cruise ship during the actual phenomenon). During this Great American Eclipse, as it is so creatively referred, Americans will actually see the moon completely block the sun, turning daylight into twilight, with the sun's corona shining around the dark of the moon. In short, its gonna be awesome.
So the real question here is, how the heck do I capture this monumentous occasion? Don't fear; GoPro Engineering Tools Specialist Shreenivasan Manievannan and Technical Fellow David Newman have some tips for you.
Some basics. The whole transit from start to finish, somewhat depending on your location, is about three hours. And as three hours likely produces pretty boring video, Time Lapse is the way to go. If you intend to time-lapse the entire transit, you can use any USB power brick to extend the GoPro's run time; otherwise, make sure you have a full charge on your GoPro battery, and plan to start your Time Lapse about one hour before totality.
Timing. We recommend a 5s time-lapse interval for two-hour capture, which will be a 48-second video when played at 30p. A shorter video to share would be better, yet if you are lucky to have two minutes of totality, this interval only gets you 24 frames (0.8s) of time in the totality. If you intend to work on the video with a speed ramp for the less exciting bits, then a 1- or 2- second interval might be better, but watch out for your battery life.
Framing. As you know the GoPro lens is very wide, so your composition will not be of any close-up views (well, without mounting the GoPro against an eyepiece of a telescope, which David will be doing in one setup). With a wide time-lapse, consider how the light will change across the landscape, so compose your framing to capture that.
Time Lapse video vs. Time Lapse photo vs. Night Lapse photo. Time-lapse video (TLV) is the easiest by far, producing a small MP4 that is ready to share, as soon as the cell service recovers from the network load of millions of eclipse chasers filling small country towns. The downside of TLV is there are no Protune controls, it is all automatic. The other two time-lapse modes will produce JPGs (and GPRs if RAW is enabled) and you can have Protune level controls to set the look (GoPro vs Flat), white balance, ISO, sharpness etc. If you are in the path of totality, choose Night Lapse, it will still work during daylight, but will take much longer exposures as needed for the dark few minutes. Below are some baseline settings for Time and Night Lapse, with Protune.
TIME LAPSE TECHNIQUE – This is helpful to capture the change of light when witnessing the Total Eclipse. The light will drastically change during the approximately two minutes of complete shadows of the moon being cast on the Earth.
Shooting towards the sun – The sun will move across the sky going from 100 percent brightness to zero percent brightness. By shooting towards the sun, one will be able capture the movement of the sun going across the sky with the landscape, showing how the light changes throughout the Eclipse and how dramatically it becomes dark during the two minutes of totality, capturing the twilight colors in the sky with orange glow on the horizon.
Shooting away from the sun – This will essentially capture how the landscape goes from fully lit by the fading sun to be completely under the moons shadows, which will be similar to twilight conditions and how it again becomes bright after the totality.
Using Protune is going to be ideal to capture such dramatic change of light in both Time Lapse photo and Night Lapse Photo modes.
Time Lapse Photo Mode is a good option if one have people/ objects moving in the frame which one would prefer it to be sharp.
Settings: Time Interval - 5s, White Balance – 4800K, ISO Min: 100, ISO Max: 1600. If you plan post-processing, turn on Raw Format, or if shooting .JPG turn on WDR and change the FOV to Linear as necessary.
Night Lapse Photo Mode is also a good option as well, if shooting a still landscape and not people, as one can get cleaner low ISO image by shooting at slower shutter speed.
Settings: Shutter Auto, Interval – 10s, FOV Wide if shooting RAW, FOV Linear or as necessary if shooting JPG, White Balance – 4800K, ISO Min: 100, ISO Max: 800.
REAL-TIME VIDEO – The light change during totality is so drastic that one can shoot a video from few minutes before totality to few minutes after totality–which will showcase in real time how the light changes during the phenomenon. When put on Karma, it will give an amazing perspective to capture those beautiful rare moments from air, and using Karma Grip can enhance the quality of the video hand held, thereby allowing one to pan around showing the 360 of the landscape and the precious reactions of the public/loved ones when the darkness takes over momentarily. Also, a phenomenon called Shadow Bands may occur just before and after the eclipse which can be captured on the real time.
Protune Setting: Ideal Setting would be to go for Linear mode with Resolution 2.7k at 60fps White Balance 4800k, ISO 6400 with Auto Shutter, so that, it doesn’t become too dark during totality.
Note: No solar filters are required to capture the eclipse since GoPro lenses are wide and it doesn’t affect the sensor like a telephoto lens would be pointing directly at the Sun.
Have fun, and keep those eyes protected!