Eclipse photography can be challenging. Here are just a few common sense tips that I’m hoping you will be able to implement regardless of your equipment. For your eye’s sake, you’ll need a filter as discussed below. You never want to look at the sun through your viewfinder as you can damage your eye. You can also damage your camera’s sensor.
Since this is not a total eclipse, there will be no opportunity to photograph the Sun’s corona at maximum eclipse. It is best if you realize that now and plan to concentrate instead on getting a really cool image of the sun’s disk being mostly hidden by the moon.
As with any technical endeavor, your level of pre-planning and equipment make a HUGE difference. If you want to shoot the event with your point and shoot camera, you may be in for a surprise. Most of these cameras have difficulty with exposure when shooting at the sun. It is possible (depending on cloud conditions) to get a shot of the eclipse through clouds or when it is very near the horizon (like any sunset), although your camera should still have a filter. When the sun is very low on the horizon here in Utah, it will be nearly out of eclipse.
The time to read the book about your camera and figure out “bulb” mode and “interval timing” is NOT on your way to the eclipse. If you have a camera that you’re planning to use to shoot the whole event, your focus should be to get a good solar filter for your lens. They come in several varieties (glass, film, etc.) from “white light” that give you a silverish sun to others that make the sun yellow or orange. Several companies that have a history of providing top quality filters are Thousand Oaks Optical or Baader Planetarium. Clark Planetarium will also have a very limited number of filters in stock as long as they last.
Whichever filter you choose, you need to order them quickly as supplies are already diminished and companies are having trouble keeping up with the demand. You can even buy your own solar “film” from a reputable company and make your own. At this point, that may be your best chance to get one in time. It’s important that if you use a solar filter, you make sure to have it secured properly to your lens to protect your eye. NEVER try to make a filter out of material that is not rated for solar viewing! Remember, there are no nerve endings on the back of your retina. You won’t know the damage you are doing to yourself until it is too late!
Practice. Take an image well in advance of the event…even days before. Watch the last 2.5 hours of sunset any time the week before from the place you think you will be observing. Make sure to look at your image when you take it (zoom in if possible) and look at it on your computer later. Check it for sharpness and detail. Look for highlights that are “blown out” from over exposure or to dark from under exposure. Unless you’re planning to stack a bunch of images at different exposures in a High Dynamic Range (HDR) program and merge them all together, it isn’t possible to get the sun/moon and any foreground objects in the same shot.
Through it all, remember that these are rare events and that for most of us, they are best enjoyed live. Step back from you gear and just enjoy watching the Moon pass directly in front of the Sun. That’s what you’ll remember when it’s all over!