I'm so excited about Monday's total solar eclipse! A once in a lifetime event in my small hometown, and it doesn't involve a BBQ eating contest or “Local Idol!” As thousands of out-of-towners converge on our normally peaceful area in upstate South Carolina, I'm working diligently in the office and the yard to be sure I have everything ready to go for the Great Solar Eclipse (also known as the omen signaling the end of the world to some religious types). I've been prepping for Monday's celestial show for about a week now, and I have to say I'm rather proud of myself.
It took a little more brain power than I could spare but I've, um, “redneck engineered” a camera filter to be sure my camera still works as well on Tuesday as it did Monday morning. I've spent hours out in the sweltering heat and gawd-awful humidity to figure out camera settings. Gravel has even been bagged up as a weight to hang from the tripod just in case it's a little windy. As long as Mother Nature is agreeable, Monday is going to be amazing.
Here's How to Make the Solar Filter
I began shopping for solar filters for my Nikon a couple of months ago. There are definitely some good ones out there, but you can tell by the price they think a lot of their product (the cheapest I found was over $200). I decided instead to just make my own and use all of that cash for other gear. I wanted something that was cheap but would hold together and could be reused after the eclipse. Here's how I did it:
First, get a solar filter sheet. I ordered this solar filter sheet on Amazon, measuring 6″ x 6″. This, thankfully, is the most expensive part of the project. Next, take a trip to your local Walmart.
Once you're inside the store and you've taken the time to stare at everyone that shops in their PJs, head over to the office supply aisle. Pick up a 6″ x 6″ cardboard box and an Exacto knife. Also, if you don't already have it at home, go to the hardware section and grab a roll of Duck Tape. Now, wander aimlessly around Walmart for at least one hour tossing miscellaneous items into your buggy (you know you'll do it anyway). Check out, be sure to tell the cashier “thank you,” and go home.
Now on to the fun part. Close the ends of the box using the Duck Tape. It doesn't need to be airtight yet, just make sure it's tightly closed. Now use the Exacto knife to cut out the top of the box, leaving a 1″ lip that will support your filter sheet. It doesn't need to be perfect, but you want to be sure to make clean edges… You don't want stray pieces of cardboard in your photos.
Now here's the trickier part: cut a hole in the center of the bottom that is just a little bit larger than your camera lens. Not too much larger, though, because you want the filter to fit snug onto the lens.
Take your filter sheet and use the Duck Tape to secure it to the top of the box. After you tape the first side down, pull just a little to be sure you don't have any wrinkles when taping the other sides. Once the filter sheet is secure, look through the lens hole to find any openings in the box. Corners tend to allow extra light in, so tape those up as well.
That's it, you're ready to use your solar filter! She ain't pretty, but she's a good worker.