[The following is the text of a private email Dennis sent to some friends. I thought it did a great job of conveying the combination of excitement and stress involved in a complicated shoot of a fast-changing one-time-only event, so I asked Dennis if I could publish it more or less as written. He agreed and here you are. —Ed.]
Words and pictures by Dennis Huff
We're home now and I can start processing a few images. Here's what I have so far.
For the eclipse, I had two cameras set up; The Sony A7RII with the Rokinon 12mm lens, shooting one image every five minutes which will be composited to show the path of the sun during the eclipse [last photo].
The second camera was the Canon 5D Mark IV with the 600mm + 1.4 teleconverter, all mounted on a guided telescope mount. I would have manually guided the camera but the exposures during totality were calculated to be 1–2 seconds, and I feared at 840mm the sun would be blurred.
I framed the Sony using a phone app which calculated the sun's position during the eclipse.
The guided mount with the Canon has go-to so it found the sun and followed it nicely. I also had a 7" monitor mounted on the Canon to check focus and framing.
Everything went well early on but after a few minutes clouds rolled in and at times the sun was not visible, and I was constantly racking exposure to compensate for cloud cover. Even so, I was thrilled that I was getting mostly good shots.
As totality approaches one must be ready to remove the solar filter and change camera settings (on both cameras!). I had C1, C2 and C3 programmed to various settings on the Canon and with the Sony, went to aperture priority during totality. Sounded easy enough...
So now we are in totality (one minute and 50 seconds), and I have finished shooting the Canon for totality and now move to the Sony, remove the filter and before I can change settings and fire, the group I'm with begin oohing and aahing and crying out so much I looked up at the sun. Oh boy, totality. Magnificent! Astounding! Soul-stirring! Oh crap we're now starting into the diamond ring effect as the sun is uncovering...
...and I haven't shot the Sony yet and I'm so discombobulated, I don't know what to do next. I jump back to the Canon to shoot and, oh no the filter! So now the filter is on and I'm shooting the diamond ring and, oh no the filter for the Sony. Whew, I didn't melt anything! The Sony image will need some Photoshopping to make it right though.
We are now out of totality and things are proceeding well. Suddenly, the mount has stopped tracking. I futzed with it for a bit but just tracked the rest of the eclipse manually.
So that was my eclipse experience. I'm thankful the group was so vocal during totality or I probably would never have looked away from my cameras! Next total eclipse across the US is in seven years from Texas to Vermont; mark your calendars!
Big thanks to Dennis. I could just feel the stress and "discombobulation" from his words! —MJ.
©2017 by Dennis Huff, all rights reserved
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Geoff Wittig: "Wow! Beautiful photographs of the eclipse. I've screwed up more than a few potentially good wildlife photos by getting discombobulated and fumbling with camera controls I should be able to manage in my sleep. The relentless 'gotta get it right now' pressure of shooting the eclipse is a whole 'nuther level. The only thing I've done that's remotely comparable was photographing a massive controlled blast at a limestone quarry using a pair of tripod mounted D-SLR's. Everything had to be set well in advance for max frame rate JPEG captures, with exposure and focus pre-set, holding down the cable release starting a second before the blast. The whole thing was over in 5 seconds, without the option of asking 'Hey, can you do that again?'"
Ed Rosch: "Above is my eclipse picture taken with my Olympus Pen F with a 15mm lens. It’s a composite of two shots taken a few seconds apart and was at the Feather River Winery in North Platte NE."
Mike replies: Your shot makes a very interesting contrast to Dennis's pictures. You're recording the experience; he's recording the object/event. Philosophically speaking, I'd say those are different subjects. And offer a clue toward understanding different approaches to the practice of photography.
I could go on about this—but please don't consider that a threat. :-)
Ed: "You hit the nail square on the head with your comment about my picture. I indeed was attempting to capture the feeling of experiencing the eclipse. I figured that there would be plenty of pictures of the eclipse itself and most of them would be better than anything I’d be able to do. As you point out, very different subjects neither 'superior' to the other. I’d suggest that a viewer engaging with Dennis's images and then looking at mine would have a better vicarious eclipse experience than viewing either alone.
"Delving deeper into the differing ways that photographic subjects and photography itself might be approached is hardly a threat but a very useful topic to be explored. Might I assume you’re familiar with the book Photography Changes Everything?"
Mike: I'm not, but I will add it to the list....
Elton Pinto: "Haha! I love the sense of excitement! That picture of totality is amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience. I also cannot help but think of how photographers sometimes miss experiencing the event in the process of documenting the event."
John Masters: "I felt a lesser amount of Dennis's stress on eclipse day.
"My health hasn't been great lately and I wasn't even going to attempt photographing the eclipse here in Palm Bay, Florida. We were expecting 84% sun coverage.
"I perked up about a week and a half before the eclipse and ordered a sheet of Solar Film, the stuff that knocks down the sun's brightness 100,000 times. After receiving the solar film, I had four days to make some filters for my camera lens and binoculars. I used cardboard, tape, black magic marker, etc., to create filters similar to a bajillion DIY ones on the Internet.
"I ended up sitting out in my back yard from 1 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. that day, and got the best shots of the eclipse I could personally do. I used a Fujifilm X-T20 with a Nikon AI lens adapter, a Nikon 300mm ƒ/4.5 lens, a Nikon TC-14 teleconverter, and my semi-homemade filter built into a 72mm to 77mm step up ring. All this on my trusty tripod. My wife and daughters came outside every little while and used the binoculars and the rear screen of my X-T20 to watch the changes and see our peak coverage.
"So, without the bazooka lenses many photographers have, my shots aren't going to be in National Geographic. But with careful work in Lightroom and Photoshop, I ended up with this souvenir shot of the whole eclipse as seen from the back yard of chez Masters, Palm Bay, Florida.
"Works for me."
Mike adds: Many TOP readers have sent me accounts of their eclipse experiences or links to their own posts about it or photos of it, including Gary Sutto, Mark Berman, and Gary K. Froehlich, and many others. I'm sorry I can't publish them all!
A reminder—if you want to publish a picture in a comment, the picture has to be on the Internet (with a URL) and be no more than 470 pixels wide, and the code to use is:
Of course, you need to replace "image.jpg" in that string with the URL of your image.
Sorry this isn't easier, but TypePad isn't set up to easily allow images in comments.
David: "My wife, my son, and I went to Oregon to see the eclipse. It was to be the first total eclipse any of us had ever seen. On the advice of an acquaintance I just set the camera to make a video recording of us watching it, starting a few minutes before totality. That was the best advice I ever received. The video captures the feelings that the eclipse evoked in us far better than any picture I could ever have produced."
ADDENDUM: I mentioned above that Gary K. Froehlich (who comments as GKFroehlich) was one of those who sent additional material about photographing the eclipse. I have urgent things to do this weekend, but I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't add a couple of Gary's remarkable photos to this post. For one thing, he was one of a very few photographers who managed (not at all by luck—the documentation of his methods he sent me was very involved, and his preparations were exacting) to photograph the transit of the International Space Station across the sun as the eclipse was happening. Here's a time lapse composite of the transit:
Really remarkable. Another thing Gary did was, in one of many fascinating pictures, was to superimpose a scale image of Earth on an image of the totality and the solar prominences:
Just awe-inspiring. This is just a detail of the much larger image he sent me, to allow you to see it in spite of our limitations on image size. Here's Gary and Ann:
Many thanks to Gary for sharing these with us!