How Did You Hack Together Your Eclipse Kit?

It's been a few days since a swath of the United States was engulfed by the solar eclipse. Internet traffic dropped drastically as everyone turned their (protected) eyes to the sky. And of course, photographers feverishly figured out how to photograph the dang thing without properly preparing. Well, most of us, anyway.

Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep of Mango Street documented their last-minute travels to Indianapolis to experience totality. Along the way, they had to beg, borrow, and (not) steal gear to get the job done. With their longest lens being a Canon 135mm, they borrowed one of their parents' Nikon D750 and 400mm lens and teleconverter setup, got some overpriced convenience store eclipse glasses, and failed to source any solar filters a couple of days before totality. As such, they only photographed totality without a filter, but what a shot it turned out to be, as you can see in the video above.

I, too, failed to adequately prepare properly. But in true MacGyver spirit, about an hour before the eclipse started, I decided to throw something together. Here's what I came up with:

It looks janky, but it worked.
That's a $3 pair of questionable eclipse glasses from 7-11, a notebook cover cut out to match the diameter of the lens and with a hole in the middle for the glasses to be taped on, and a 14-year-old Canon EOS Rebel T2i sporting a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. I grabbed a camera off the shelf that I wouldn't shed a tear over if I accidentally destroyed it photographing this rare celestial event. I didn't end up destroying anything, and as a bonus, I still got to use the glasses.

Did it work? Well, considering Connecticut was not in the path of totality and we had a bit of a cloudy day, the results were not bad:

No totality where I was, but still interesting nonetheless.
It's pretty easy to throw your hands up in the air and give up when all those solar filters are sold out, but where there's a will, there's a way, as the folks at Mango Street and I demonstrated.

Did you have a hacked-together eclipse setup? Share your eclipse photography story in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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While I love Mango Street, I also appreciate good marketing disguised as storytelling and suspect there was much more planning than face value. However, I also appreciate the spirit of your article. Speaking solely for ME, photography is a passion first, side hustle second. Thus, I'm not always up on the latest opportunities and stuff that trends with several million followers can still "sneak up," on me. It's a good reminder to capture these moments with whatever we can, how we can, that burns those awesome memories into our minds.

I did not travel to this years Solar Eclipse but did in 2017 just up 95 to South Carolina and got a room at the base hotel at Shaw Air Force Base with plenty of room for two nights. It was strange not much info about it on the net or what to get. I had some months to prepare and get supplies needed. To start the silver/aluminum film needed for the camera was easy to make but got one that fit over the lens easy because the lens I was using was not a super telephoto. I used the Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS and at the press of a button APS-C 36-360mm lens on the Sony A7RM2 42MP. What you can not plan for as well as a long Lunar Eclipse is how high and straight up it will be. I took the rig off the tripod and laid on the ground as will as turning on IBIS and lens OSS. The funny thing was the filter I was using I could not see anything and the silver sheet nothing was clear after trying to find the Sun, but at the start during the first wedding band I took the filter off after chipping my first captures. So I got the first to the last wedding band shots. I was zooming in and out for only a two minute time frame, a very short time and no amount of practice would help.
One key thing I missed was I should have done bracketing 5 at +/- 2EV to get the earth shine off the moon also. Another to do would be set to fast capture like you would do for birds this way not to miss anything. The reason for a wide telephoto is to get also some crowd shots with the eclipse but at 24mm the sun was really small but came out.
In post is the real problem seeing spots while trying to edit, just be aware and prepared for that just like editing a sunrise/set. The clouds gave something to the image nice to have and not a bare blue sky.
I had no damage to lens or camera, funny I had the glasses on the whole time!
I hope this helps some for your first time, oh! get the supplies now while supplies are still on hand, never know where and when you may be during the next one.

I stacked a 6 stop variable ND filter on top of a 10 stop filter lmao.

Though I didn't get very good images because I forgot the eclipse was happening and didn't plan. My buds call woke me up from my slumber 5 minutes before it began so I rushed out the door with disheveled hair gear in hand to see what I could get so my images look about as good as the average attempt at an eclipse shot XD.

And no damage to the camera!?