Browse Solar Eclipse Maestro Help     SEM Icon   Eclipse Preparation


Main Screen Layout


Initial Setup

Eclipse Preparation

Script File Format

Camera Configuration



Shortcuts and Tips

Credits & Acknowledgments

The day before Eclipse Day

  1. Configure your Mac to disable any sleep or screen savers, but you can leave the screen dimmer on. There is an internal mechanism preventing sleep when a script is running, but you’d better be on the safe side.
  2. If you’re already at the eclipse site, take GPS readings and update the latitude, longitude and altitude in the Photographer Location dialog. If you have a GPS connected and configured you can just open the Photographer Location dialog and click Take GPS to copy the GPS readings.
  3. If you have time, do a final test of the script.
  4. Charge your batteries, make sure cables are working, etc.
  5. Put fresh/empty memory cards in your cameras. Clean the lenses, telescopes and image sensors.

On Eclipse Day

  1. Turn off Camera Detection in every other applications such as Image Capture, Photos (Yosemite and newer), Nikon Transfer, Graphic Converter, or cloud web services such as Dropbox, etc. If you don’t, those applications will launch, sometimes in the background, when you connect the camera(s). If you have installed Canon applications, then ensure in Image Capture that No application is selected following a camera connection, as the Canon applications have no setting to turn them off; if you don’t those will launch automatically when a camera is connected, hence blocking Solar Eclipse Maestro.
  2. Connect and power everything up. Don’t do it too early or you’ll deplete your batteries!
  3. Set up your camera(s). For full control, set the camera to Manual exposure (M) mode and manual focus. Don’t forget to do the same with the attached lens (does not apply to a non-AF lens or telescope). Turn off Auto Exposure Bracketing and White Balance Bracketing modes. Turn off also the Exposure Value Compensation and make sure the exposure level increments (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) are set to ⅓ stop. If you just want to press the shutter button on a camera, then set the camera to Program exposure (P) mode. Don’t forget to turn off the flash of your camera(s).
    Then set the focus with the help of the remote Live View, on supported cameras, to fine tune.
    Preset the size, type and image quality of your DSLRs or MILCs: currently the application isn’t able to change those settings for all the supported cameras.
  4. Start the Solar Eclipse Maestro application and check or update your final position based on GPS, using the Observer > Observer’s Location… menu item. Unless you are overriding event times, click the OK button.
  5. Check that the computer time is correct. It should be set using the Observer > Current Time menu item and the UTC display in the upper left should be correct. Check it against a good timing source, like a GPS. If the computer clock is incorrect, fix it in the Mac’s System Preferences or use the Setup > Clock Error Adjustment… menu item feature to fudge the clock until it reads correct.
  6. Make sure you’ve configured everything (software options, camera settings, memory cards, cabling, etc) the same as when you tested the whole setup. Today is not the day to make any big new last-minute changes.
  7. Load your script.
  8. As you progress into the partial phases, keep an eye on the camera(s). Make sure it stays pointed at the Sun. Make sure there is enough space left on the memory card for the rest of the eclipse. Depending on the transparency of the sky and altitude of the Sun, you may need to edit the script to adjust the exposure time of the partial phases to an optimum value. You can also use the exposure compensation contextual menu available on the script actions list. Check the focus of the cameras now and then. Tape the focus ring and AF/MF switch so they can’t be bumped. Do not let anyone else handle or look through your camera. Make sure cables are routed or tied down so someone won’t stumble over them.
  9. Once you get within 5 minutes of totality, stop checking the computer or camera(s). If a problem crops up you will not have time to fix it, so just sit back and enjoy the eclipse. The excitement of totality often causes people to make mistakes or misperceive things, so it’s now too late to be messing with complicated software or making last-minute changes. Trust me, don’t do it!
  10. REMEMBER TO TAKE SOLAR FILTERS OFF RIGHT BEFORE SECOND CONTACT. This is the MOST likely thing to go wrong, because it’s up to you to remember to do it. Don’t let all of this fancy camera automation spoil you so much that you forget to take the filters off. The sound file playback feature was added for the sole purpose of having the computer remind you to take the filters off.
  11. Watch totality!
  12. Conversely, shortly after totality make sure you put the solar filters back on.
  13. After the eclipse: quit the application, then turn off the cameras and disconnect them, shut down the computer, and clean up. Enjoy your photos and start planning your next eclipse trip.