The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Gearing Up For Solar Photography

Now I suspect a lot of you would love to try a little solar photography someday but are worried about the cost. You may even be looking at the upcoming annular eclipse on May 20th or the Transit of Venus on June 5/6 (depending on which side of the International Date Line you are on) and wish you could photograph it but think you need lots of expensive equipment.

Well, I am not the wealthiest person in the world so I always try and find ways to do things inexpensively. Regular readers know that my camera is a Canon Digital Rebel Xti which can be picked up inexpensively on eBay. I have several lenses I have bought over the years. The two zoom lenses are the Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom lens and the EF 70-300 USM zoom lens (got used for $90). I use these two lenses for my sunset green flash pictures.

To take a pic of sunspots, a partial eclipse, or the transit of Venus, however, you are going to need a solar filter. You can always buy some solar film and make your own, but a company called Rainbow Symphony makes solar filters ready to go. I have bought a variety of stuff from them over the years and had good luck with them. I bought the 60mm solar filter and it fits over the end of both my lenses like a glove. It even snaps into place like it was built for these lenses.

So I took my camera outside, found the sun and snapped a shot.

Not a lot of action up there today,but you can see the smudge toward the right side which is sunspot 1450. I didn’t do any adjustments to the photo except cropping and took it with all automatic camera settings (with the flash turned off…the camera sees all that dark area and wants to fire a flash!)

So a rather humble beginning, but I am sure I will get somewhat better results as I experiment with manual settings. I will be working with the camera in preparation for the May 20th annular solar eclipse and the June 4th transit of Venus. I am sure many people have comparable cameras and could get interesting photos.  Oh, and don’t forget, we are heading toward a probable solar maximum in 2013 so a $10 solar filter is not a bad accessory to buy now!


April 6, 2012 - Posted by | Astrophotography, Solar Photography, Sun |


  1. Did you have any issue focusing, or did you just set the lens to infinity?

    It seems like it might also be hard if the sun was in your face, which it would be by definition here.

    Comment by Mike Loucks (@Astrogator_Mike) | April 6, 2012 | Reply

  2. My autofocus seemed pretty happy and that’s what I used. If autofocus gives issues, yeah, set it to infinity.

    There is a trick you can use to find the sun: Look at the camera’s shadow (I had it mounted on a tripod of course). Move the camera until the shadow is the smallest and it should be pointing at (or at least very close to) the Sun. I had the lens zoomed out and then zoomed in on the Sun while looking through the viewfinder (my camera is old enough there is no Live View mode).

    Comment by halfastro | April 6, 2012 | Reply

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