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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Solar Eclipse Photography Tips & Pointers

I'm sure a lot of you are planning to watch Monday's solar eclipse, and if you're a photographer I'm equally sure you've seen some information pertaining to how to safely photograph the moon's transit across our sun.  I'd like to share some information with you to point you in the right direction where you will be able to find more detail on certain topics, with a focus on optics.

Since you may be wondering, I will not be directly photographing the eclipse myself, though I do plan on traveling to the totality zone to enjoy the astronomy show, and probably document my journey and the other sunwatchers I'm sure to find.

Solar Eclipse Glasses

I won't mince words; if you don't already have the ISO 12312-2 compliant "solar sunglasses" you probably won't be able to get them.  They are long-since sold out of all online retailers for delivery before Monday, and all stores are out of them unless they get a batch of them in on Saturday or Sunday.  Here is a list of reputable eclipse glasses vendors, though expect most of them to be sold out.

American Astronomical Society (AAS): Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers

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It is extremely important to only use ISO 12312-2 compliant solar filter film glasses to view the sun at all times any part of the sun's surface is exposed; in the DC Metro area, this means you must view the eclipse through the glasses at all times, because that area is outside of the path of totality, and therefore there will always be part of the sun exposed.  Solar filters such as the film in these glasses do more than stop down visible light; they also block invisible ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light - this is key because the UV light especially can be so intense that it will permanently burn and destroy the central cones in your retinas, creating permanent central blind spots in your vision.  Without the solar filter, this dangerous UV light is not reduced to safe levels even if visible light from the sun is comfortably reduced; this is why "doubling up" on sunglasses is not a safe way to view the eclipse, and can cause just as much damage as staring directly at the sun bare.  Even with the solar filter glasses, you must only take short looks at the sun through the glasses - view the eclipse for no more than a minute at a time, taking long breaks between viewings to allow your eyes a rest and prevent eye damage which can still take place with extended viewing through the glasses.

Please read this article from NASA about more detailed information on safely viewing the eclipse.

Best Buy and Michaels seem to be the most knowledgeable about the glasses, though you should call first thing in the morning to ask about availability, and rush over in the unlikely event they have any more in stock.  Lowe's also carries the glasses, but are out of stock as well.  Home Depot is giving out unsafe advice to buy their welders goggles, but this is a bad situation, because they do not sell the required Shade 13 or 14 welders goggles - they only stock Shade 8, which is much too light, and will cause eye damage when viewing the sun.  Please refer to the link above for more information on welders goggles.

If you don't have any glasses at this point your best bet is to arrive at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia by 5AM to wait for admittance to pick up some of the limited supplies of the glasses they have.  The NASM has small quantities of the glasses they give away on a first-come-first-serve basis.  On Saturday and Sunday they have 300 pairs of glasses available, and all will go to the first groups who arrive at the gate.  On Monday, the day of the eclipse, 1,000 pairs of the solar glasses will be made available while supplies last.  This Friday morning the first car arrived at 4AM to wait; gates into the NASM parking lot are opened at 8AM, by which time a line of cars stringing all the way up to the 28 overpass will have formed.

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At this time a line is formed outside the Udvar-Hazy building (and well beyond) until admission to the building is granted at 9AM.  Another hour waiting, and the museum staff begin giving glasses to guests at the museum's opening time of 10AM.  Glasses are provided on a basis of two per group / family - realistically you can act as if you don't know one another and are a single person representing a group of two, but lets have some ethics and not abuse this - there aren't many glasses to go around, and if you can afford share a pair, then be good and let others also get to experience this rare phenomenon.  Plan to arrive early, and spend lots of time on your feet waiting in line.

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The National Air and Space Museums in DC and the Udvar-Hazy Center will be having solar eclipse viewing events at both locations; read here for details.

Alternative Viewing Methods

Welders Glass

As mentioned above, one can use Shade 13 and higher welding goggles, though this is a hard to find shade, since most stores stock much lighter shaded glass which is unsafe to view the eclipse. If you have welders glass already, and it doesn't explicitly list the shade rating, do not trust it - permanent eye damage is not worth the risk.

Pinhole Projection

An easy method anyone can perform with basic office supplies is to create a pinhole viewer.  All you need is some cardstock and a white surface to place the projection on.  Make a 3mm round hole in the cardstock and by hand focus the sun on your white surface; the eclipse will be visible projected on the surface through the pinhole.  This is in essence a pinhole camera.  You are safe to view the projection without any eye protection, though you may want some sunglasses since it will still be quite bright.

NASA: Projection: Pinhole & Optical

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Photographic Equipment and Telescopes

And here is the big reason I am writing this quick guide - I want you photographers to stay safe, and keep your gear safe.

Please, if you do not have a dedicated solar filter or solar film for your camera or other optical equipment, do not under any circumstance attempt to photograph the eclipse directly.  Without a solar filter, the intense brightness and heat of the sun's rays will burn and destroy your camera's sensor, and can become so hot it can begin to melt and etch an image in the sensitive surfaces of your camera such as the focusing screen.  You can indeed interchangeably use a telescope filter or raw solar film sheets on a camera; the key is you must have total coverage of the lens, and must never use the viewfinder for any reason.

Furthermore, "doubling up" on neutral density (ND) filters will reduce the visible light to a safe level for your sensor, but does nothing to reduce the ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) lightwaves which can still damage your sensor; UV filters, and the IR filter built into every camera's sensor may not be strong enough to reduce these wavelengths to a safe level - if you choose to use ND filters, do so at your camera's own risk; you will need at least 18 stops (ND 5.4) of density to reduce the sun's visible light to a level safe for your sensor.  Unless you have a dedicated solar filter, I recommend only attempting the ND method on a camera you are comfortable with possibly breaking permanently.  If you go this method I recommend placing a lens cap over the lens at all times except when focusing (via live-view only) or short bursts of shooting; don't expose the sensor or glass to any undue amounts of the sun's rays.

For all circumstances, you must only use live-view to focus and shoot - do not under any circumstance look through the viewfinder when aimed at the sun, regardless of if your camera has a solar filter installed or not.  Solar filters for optical equipment do not as stringently adhere to ISO 12312-2 compliance which is required for safe viewing with human eyes.  Furthermore, even using the solar sunglasses to look through the viewfinder will also be harmful because of the focused intensity of the sun through the camera's optics.  Do not attempt to use the solar glasses solar filter film as a camera lens solar filter; your camera must have 100% complete lens coverage in order for it to safely photograph the eclipse; your solar glasses' filter is not large enough to cover the entire lens, save for camera phones.  Looking through the viewfinder is placing a hypothetical ant (your eye / retina) under a literal magnifying glass (your camera / lens).

If you do have all the required materials to safely shoot the sun, you will need a lens or telescope capable of reaching the 500 - 800mm range to fill the frame with the sun to a useful amount.

Enjoy It

This is a historic event; don't get caught up in your camera so much that you miss watching!

I will mostly be enjoying the journey and nature of our moon blocking view of our sun, rather than fiddling with a camera; this is rare event that I wasn't even sure I'd be available to enjoy due to other scheduled photoshoots which have now been postponed (probably because people want to watch the eclipse?).  Since I only found out I'm free in the last few days, I will not be photographing the eclipse directly because A) I couldn't find a solar filter available for sale in time for a reasonable price, B) because the risks to my gear are too great for my comfort, C) there will be a massive amount of coverage by others who are better equipped to document this event, such as those at NASA, and D) it's nice to relax sometimes.  I will instead be enjoying the eclipse through my solar eclipse glasses and documenting the journey and those I see watching the eclipse on Monday.

Hopefully you all will be able to enjoy the solar eclipse safely and easily; please, please do not take any silly risks - hurting your camera may hurt your wallet, but hurting your eyes will hurt forever - don't risk anything - stay safe folks!

Below I'm leaving some helpful links which go into more detail about the eclipse than I've outlined here; please visit them and read for more depth than the overview I've provided.

Bad Self Portraits: Summer of 2017

Twilight Polo at Great Meadow Polo Club

Last week, after countless invites to attend, I finally went to my first polo match at Great Meadow Polo Club.  This same venue hosts the Virginia Gold Cup, and holds their twilight polo matches in an arena near the main grandstands.

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn

Prior to polo, we visited Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn.  Aspen Dale is one of my most visited local wineries, and is home of the Rockawalkin;' the best red wine I've found from Virginia to-date.  Go pick up a bottle; it's well worth the premium pricetag.

Great Meadow Twilight Polo

Twilight polo is much more relaxed than the Virginia Gold Cup (which I will attend again, even though my first experience was pretty dreadful), and I look forward to visiting again better prepared for picnicking and dressed a little cooler for the Virginia Summer humidity.

AirlineGeeks.com

A Planespotter’s Dream Gig: A Look into the Life of an Airport Photographer

This morning, AirlineGeeks.com features a profile of me, highlighting my aviation photography, and giving a glimpse into what it’s like when I cover large-scale corporate events.  I invite you to read the full article on the AirlineGeeks website by clicking here or the article preview below.

It is an immeasurable honor that my photography has inspired a profile to be written about me and my work. I’m proud to work so closely with so many people at Dulles International and Reagan National airports, amongst the Airports Authority, the airlines, and their partners, all of whom work hard to keep the DC airports operating smoothly, and welcoming passengers the whole-world over.

I especially have to thank Ryan from AirlineGeeks for shadowing and interviewing me during the Air India inaugural a few weeks ago. I also must thank Airport Operations; without their skilled assistance, I would never be able to cover airfield actives with the depth I capture. Finally I must thank my many partners in the numerous PR, marketing, communications, and media departments and outlets I have worked with over the years - it is because of their efforts on many projects that my photos have been presented to a global audience.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in growing my career to where it stands today - today marks a true milestone; I can’t begin to describe how honored I am to be receiving such recognition, and I am excited to learn the next heights my career will take. Thank you!

A Day at the Museums

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Every year I try to visit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival; this year was no different.  As we always do, Adrianna and I arrived hungry and enjoyed several of the different cultural food vendors.  With this year's festival, however, that was about all we did, as we found the entire festival quite small underwhelming, particularly in comparison to previous years; it seems as though the festival has been shrinking over the last few years, much to our disappointment, as we both look forward to attending each year.  The nearby waste bins reminded me of some fine art photography series I've seen done on trash.

We perused the entire grounds of the festival, and barely anything was going on - we saw two discussion panels, which the speakers seemed to be attempting humor that was falling flat on the gathered audiences, and there were no demonstrations taking place even at the scheduled times posted.  Disappointed, we decided to hit a few of the less trafficked museums.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

At the Hirshorn we saw parts of Yoko Ono's exhibits which were nearing their close, and Ai Weiwei's "Trace" exhibit of large LEGO portraits of political dissidents.  This of course was alongside some of Hirshorn's collection of rotating artifacts on display.

One piece that initially confused us was Reynier Leyva Novo's "5 Nights," which appear as different sized rectangles of black ink on the walls, each equal to the amount of ink used in writing five totalitarian leaders' manifestos; at the museum, we did not see a plaque explaining this, but we did notice the plaque underneath the largest rectangle labeled "Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf" and we incorrectly surmised that these were placeholders for an upcoming exhibit, one of which would be a painting by Adolf Hitler sharing the title of his infamous autobiography.  It wasn't until later that evening on the Hirshorn website that all was made clear; the conclusion we'd drawn earlier just didn't feel as though it added up, and had been bugging me for clarification and correction all day.

The detail and depth in Weiwei's repeating patterns is breathtaking, and a designer's delight.  Overtones of surveillance, oppression, suppression.  The rise of Twitter, resistance, transparency through opposition.  It's bleak and hopeful and applicable to the political state in many governments the whole-World over.  It is a modern illustration of a timeless struggle.

Weiwei's LEGO art was expansive and reminiscent of 8-bit art, eliciting thoughts of the digital age in which many of his subjects relied upon in their tasks.

National Museum of the American Indian

Next we decided to visit the nearby National Museum of the American Indian.  Adrianna is part Native American, so she's visited many times and is well versed in the exhibits and history.  I, on the other hand, had never been before, and my entire knowledge of Native American history is limited one learns in 4th grade; that is, to say, I admittedly have no significant knowledge of Native American history.  Our visit was rushed because they would be closing in less than two hours, and frankly this is a museum to fully absorb a whole day would be required; I will need to return to devote an entire day to give it the attention this museum requires and deserves.

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At closing time we split a pastry in the cafeteria head off back to Virginia for dinner.

Air India at Washington Dulles International Airport

On a warm, drizzly Summer morning, Air India's inaugural flight between Delhi, India, and Washington, DC landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, greeted by a delegation from the Embassy of India, distinguished guests, and a crowd of media who gathered alongside the runway.  Upon landing, the 777-200LR was welcomed with a ceremonial water arch, and the aircraft blessed upon arriving to its gate.

Following refreshments, a press conference commenced with performances of Jana Gana Mana and The Star-Spangled Banner, national anthems of India and the United States, and a traditional Indian dance.  Speakers included Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ambassador of India to the United States His Excellency Navtej Sarna, Air India’s Chairman Ashwani Lohani, and representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to include Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKeough, and Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Jerome Davis.  After remarks from each of the speakers, a ceremonial cake cutting and exchange of gifts was enjoyed by the distinguished guests.

After the festivities, I made my way onto the ramp for one more aircraft walk around, and finally onto the runway to watch Air India’s flight depart Dulles for the first time on it’s new non-stop route back to Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Luckily the weather had cleared up during the press conference and the skies were now blue with heavy bands of clouds quickly moving across the horizon, creating additional dramatic effect for Air India’s first departure.

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We don't believe in walls; 

we believe in bridges.

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia