Venus passes by the Sun for a once-in-a-lifetime shot

Unless you’ve been living in a cave void of all light, sound, and access to a news source, Venus is currently making a swing in Earth’s view, but only if you look at the Sun. We all know that the Sun is bright and very dangerous to look at, so we’ve cut the middle-man out and are showing you what we’re seeing, as well as how we did it.

The shots you’re currently gazing at have been shot at GadgetGuy’s offices in Woolloomooloo, behind thin layers of cloud that occasionally part for anyone with a camera and a decent setup. You can probably recognise the giant ball of fire that is the Sun, but that little tiny dot at the bottom is Venus.

Sadly, you can’t just aim your mobile phone camera at the sun and hope for the best though, so don’t do that. You’ll just get a lot of sun flares. Even excellent digital SLRs with amazing lenses need to be setup accordingly, so to take these photos, we used an infrared filter.

An infrared filter is a truly dense filter that allows you to cut out much of the light being sent your way. Typically used in infrared photography to pick up on specific emissions, taking advantage of an IR filter means we can try and avoid excess light and shoot the sun without blinding us in the process.

It's probably not the ultra professional astrophotographic solution, but enthusiasts can use an infrared filter to get shots of solar events like the Transit of Venus. We did.

Without an IR filter, we need to stress that you shouldn’t look at the sun. It’s bright, really bright, and really dangerous, especially if you value your sight.

With an IR filter, you still shouldn’t look at one, instead letting the camera do its thing. If you have a LiveView mode, look at the Transit in this way, allowing the camera to absorb most of the damage.

Our kit for taking these photos: Nikon D300, 55-200mm VR, Hoya IR filter.

You can actually hold an IR filter in front of most cameras, but only ones with a strong amount of aperture and shutter speed control will let you get the most out of the filter, allowing you to grab images like the one we’re showing.

Sadly, you’re unlikely to be able to run out, find a filter, mount it, and shoot it before the Transit of Venus ends, with it likely to disappear out of the view of Australians well before the end of today, but if the field of astrophotography interests you, having one is a useful idea.

UPDATE (1:05pm): We figured we’d try a shot from Panasonic’s FZ150 advanced point and shoot to see what we could get, to see if cameras that lack interchangeable lenses could still pull the shot off. Still using the infrared filter, the result isn’t bad. Check it out below.