Wednesday, August 30, 2017

THE 2017 Solar Eclipse

Wow, only a few topics have made so many headlines than the recent solar eclipse.
And for a good reason, it sure was a rare natural phenomenon.

The internet is overflowing with spectacular images, unfortunately also with spectacularly fake images.
As I was discussing this with another photographer friend, the question arises, where does fake start and where does real end.
Almost all images one can see of the recent eclipse went through photoshop in one way or another, for a good reason as I will explain later.
The last partial eclipse I was fortunate enough to photograph was in May 2012 and the timing was much better as this eclipse happened later in the afternoon when the sun was lower in the sky.
All three of these photos are a single shot using multiple neutral density filters at the same time.

 Partial eclipse over the Pacific Ocean, California May 2012
 Partial eclipse over the Pacific Ocean, California May 2012

 Partial eclipse over the Pacific Ocean, California May 2012

This time the challenge was that the eclipse happened around noon, when the sun is the highest in the sky, the smallest and the brightest....

First I debated if I should drive south, into the path of the total eclipse. In hindsight, I think I should have, but at the time I just didn't want to deal with traffic jams and photographers fighting for the best view points.
So I cruised around here, even thought of going to Lake Louise, scouting out different places the week before. Lake Louise was not in the right path of the sun and also was, as the rest of the park, rather smokey. I found a lovely place directly on the bank of the Kootenay River and decided - that's the spot.
Since one doesn't photograph a solar eclipse every day, some planning was required.
Luckily I had already ordered solar filters for my lenses, as I knew neutral density filters wouldn't do it this time. The rest was a bit of photo - math, composition, bracketing and, yup, Photoshop.

I had two cameras set up, one with a wide-angle lens, as I wanted to show the eclipse in it's entity

 Kootenay Eclipse

and a camera with a 600 mm lens to get the sun close and intimate.

 Eclipse Collage
Obviously neither of these images are a single image.....

The 'Kootenay Eclipse' is a combination of a photo that I took of the scene before the sun moved in but already with the solar filter attached:

 Scene before the sun moved in

and multiple images that I took every 10 minutes from start to end of the eclipse, with the solar filter attached.

These single images look like that:

Wide-angle eclipse photo

You see only black? Double click on the image to enlarge it and you will see the dot, which is the eclipsed sun (in the same stage as the zoom image below). Why such a strong filter: if you enlarge the image, you will see that even with this filter the sun is almost too bright. Without a filter it would be just a bright, blinding dot, like this:

 Eclipse without a filter
For the same reason you had to wear solar glasses in order to see the eclipse.

On the computer I combined all of the eclipse images with the original scenery image and blended them together in a way that the lighter parts show....and the 'Kootenay Eclipse' was the result.

Why is the sun so small you wonder, since there are thousands of images out there with scenery and a much bigger sun? Well, I combined images that were shot with the same settings, as in composition and size, to reflect what actually happened but you couldn't see with naked eyes.

I could have taken the images from my telephoto lens and put them into the scenic shot:

 Zoom lens eclipse in a wide-angle scene
Much more dramatic, eh? And I didn't even take any care in combining them, as I wanted to make sure everybody notices, that this image is 'not real'.

But of course I wanted to photograph some closer up images of the sun, too.  Hence the zoom lens.

Here I also took images of the eclipse every 10 minutes, each image looking like this one:

Single zoom image

All of these images I combined to one big collage that shows the progress of the eclipse, resulting in the "Eclipse Collage". The orange cast on the sun is a result of the filter I used.

Now, where does real end and fake start? The answer is very subjective, as photography is an art form and art is free. However, photography also is kind of documentary or at least is perceived as such. Hence, if one puts a zoomed in eclipsed sun image into a wide-angle scene, it's fake, as it does not reflect what actually occurred in nature. Of course it is still art and mostly brilliantly done, but...
This is just my opinion and I would LOVE to hear yours!!