If you haven't already made plans to witness the 2017 solar eclipse that's coming on August 21, you need to.
A full solar eclipse is rare enough, but this is an even more special kind of eclipse...
For the first time in almost 100 years, it will be visible from the west coast to the east coast of North America.
That means that eyes from Oregon to Wyoming to Missouri to South Carolina will be gazing skyward come August to see the moon block the sun and turn day into night. Get a preview of where the solar eclipse will be best viewed in the video below from Eclipse 2017:
Of course, the 2017 eclipse isn't just about witnessing a spectacular celestial event - it's also an opportunity for photographers across the country to record the event for posterity with their cameras.
The question, of course, is how to do that without buying a ton of expensive gear while protecting your camera and lens at the same time.
Let's dive deeper into how you can get excellent photos of the 2017 eclipse on a budget.
Rent a Camera Body and a Telephoto Lens
If you already have a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens system, you're sitting pretty to get photos of the eclipse on a budget.
If all you have is a compact camera or a point-and-shoot, you'll need to invest in a DSLR or mirrorless camera for the event by renting one from Borrow Lenses, Lens Rentals, or another reputable retailer, where you can rent a camera body for three days for less than $100.
If you've got a camera already, and you think that you can get a great close-up photo of the 2017 solar eclipse with your kit lens or a short telephoto lens, think again.
To get up close and detailed shots like the one above, you'll need a telephoto lens in the 300-400mm range or longer.
Of course, if you don't have a lens that long, buying one new (or even used) can easily set you back thousands of dollars.
Rather than buying a lens you may or may not use to warrant the expense, rent one for the eclipse, again from Borrow Lenses, Lens Rentals, or a comparable outfit.
The rental price depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the quality and size of the lens. The bigger the lens and the higher the quality, the more they will cost.
Nevertheless, you can get a 300mm telephoto lens for around $50 for a three-day rental, which is well worth the price if it means getting a stunning shot of the solar eclipse more likely.
Invest in a Solid Tripod
Like good lenses, most good tripods don't come cheap.
But hear me out on this...
If you don't already have a high-quality tripod, now is the time to upgrade.
Not only do you need a solid base for your camera and lens to get the best photo possible of the 2017 solar eclipse, but you can use that tripod over and over again to improve your day-to-day photos of people, landscapes, and everything in between.
You could easily spend several hundred dollars on a high-end tripod, but since we're being budget-friendly, there are plenty of options that will get you the solid base you need without busting your budget.
The Vanguard VEO 265CB Carbon Fiber Tripod shown above is an excellent choice.
Since it's constructed of carbon fiber, it's light yet durable, and can support up to 17 pounds.
Its feet have retractable metal spikes, so if your vantage point for the 2017 solar eclipse isn't ideal, you can rest easy knowing that your tripod will have a good grip on the surface of the ground.
Another tripod that's even more budget-friendly is the Sirui ET-2004 Aluminum Tripod shown above.
This tripod can support even more weight than the Vanguard - 26.5 pounds.
That means that even with a full frame camera and a large telephoto lens, the Sirui will give you the stable base you need for sharp images.
Like the Vanguard tripod, the Sirui also has retractable metal spikes on its feet for improved stability.
Either way, these tripods and those like them offer you all the features you need to keep camera shake at bay, whether that's during the solar eclipse or whether that's taking everyday photos between now and then.
Get a Special Filter Without Breaking the Bank
Naturally, you can't just point your camera and lens at the sun and do so without causing damage to your gear.
That's where the light-stopping power of a neutral density filter comes in.
But because the light and heat from the sun is so intense, you can't use just any neutral density filter.
Marumi makes a Solid Neutral Density Filter that has 16.5 stops of light filtering power.
Do the math, and you'll find that those 16.5 stops equal a 92,000x filter factor.
You can see just how dark this lens in the images above and below, and it's perfect for the 2017 eclipse
With a 5.0 density, this filter darkens the entire image, allowing you to open the aperture and dial in a slower shutter speed as well.
Like any good neutral density filter, the Marumi DHG Solar Eclipse Filter does not impact the colors of the images you take of the eclipse. Instead, what you get is an image that has no ghosting or reflections, thanks to its nine layers of anti-reflection coating.
This Solar Eclipse Filter is available in two common sizes - 58mm and 77mm - to accommodate a wide variety of lenses. Just screw it directly onto your lens, or use a stepping ring to adapt the filter to a different sized lens.
Better still, this Marumi Solar Eclipse Filter isn't just a one-trick pony. Keep it in your bag for creating daytime long exposures or hang onto it for the next eclipse that hits the U.S. in 2024.
Either way, there's not a better, more budget-friendly way to protect your camera and lens than by outfitting it with a Solar Eclipse Filter from Marumi.
So, before it's too late, check out rental options for lenses and reserve your telephoto lens before they're all spoken for. Then, get a high-quality solar eclipse filter so you're sure your camera and lens are protected.
On the day of the eclipse, grab your camera, lens, filter, and tripod, and give yourself plenty of time to get setup and take some test shots. In fact, it might be a good idea to get prepared ahead of time and take a few test shots between now and then by using the moon as your subject so that you can perfect the framing and composition of your shot.
August 21, 2017, will be here before you know it! For more details about the eclipse, visit NASA's Eclipse 2017 website. For some pointers on taking photos of a solar eclipse, check out the video below by Matt Granger: