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Thursday, 31 August 2017


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I took a few snapshots of this one but wanted to make sure I didn't lose track of the live event while fussing with the camera, so I didn't se tup anything fancy. Because of a combination of factors (mostly thin but changing clouds, and a lens without focus stops) I never hit good focus with my 4/3rds body hand held. So I think next time I'll actually try and use a tripod and practice some more with the focus mechanics.

Telephoto lenses without infinity stops are annoying.

Great shots - I respect your preparation and planning. My own eclipse experience was was a bit of a last-minute-seat-of-the-pants affair. I'm put off by participating in mass migrations of any kind but ultimately decided I might have regrets if I missed an event so uncommon and so near. By then solar eclipse filters were sold-out online and in the local stores. So I wound up with stacked 15 and 2 stop ND filters and very limited knowledge of how to use them or if they would work. I spent a short night in the back of my car by the side of a Forest Service road and was on top of Laramie Peak, Wyoming at 8:30 am Monday morning with time to set up the tripod and take experimental pictures of the sun as the event approached and a crowd gathered. Every few minutes I re-centered the sun in my viewfinder and made sure it was still in focus using the focus peak highlighting which worked very well once there was a hard, high-contrast edge separating moon from sun. And it came together ... mostly. I didn't get my filters off soon enough to catch the diamond ring going in but I captured it as totality passed. I thought I had missed the corona altogether until I lifted the exposure in post-processing. I found the experience of dimming light, dropping temperatures, plunging into darkness, the appearance of stars, and the sudden beam of white light as the sun emerged to be overwhelming. We are tiny creatures at the mercy celestial objects whose movements we predict but do not control. Of course we know that but how often do we feel it? This my 9 image composite - 400mm with a Fuji X-Pro2 and 17 stops of ND filters (for partial) f/8 and variable shutter speeds (hope it shows up here):


Wonderful, Dennis. Thanks for sharing the photos and your technique. For a completely different take on that amazing event:


Isn't photography great for the way it accommodates such a variety of interests?


Well, after reading that I know what I'll be doing for the Australian eclipse in 2028 - leaving my camera in the bag.

it was definitely a good event to have extra gear and fall-back strategies. I was forced to abandon one camera since the sun was not visible in the VF and chasing it with a 400mm lens could take too long. My K-5 and 100-300mm zoom worked very well, and an action-cam video will be prized as well. We'll see how the film camera did next week, an old Ricoh XR-10 with 28-200 zoom for wider location shots and more stars/planets.

I find it amazing that our moon is just the right size in just the right orbit to perfectly obscure our Sun every now and then. Second to that in amazingness is the ability to calculate the exact time and path of eclipses both in the past and in the future. Now I know I will be in Austin Texas in April 2024 and not Newfoundland.

So basically you didn't experience the eclipse because your were too busy photographing it.

Wonderful images, and a great story behind them. I am a bit jealous. I would have loved to be there. There is no way that any of us photogs would have been happy to experience this without taking photographs but sometimes a camera can get in the way of the experience. Dennis clearly had the know how to give us a taste of the moment, right down to the prominences on the limb. Wonderful stuff.

I can sympathize with Dennis Huff as ninety-six seconds (totality where I was) is not a lot of time!

The astronomy folks at cloudynights.com had a special forum devoted to the recent eclipse:

From that forum I learned that there are many specialized programs for controlling the exposure and timing of eclipse photos. I used one called SETnC (thanks, Robert Nufer!) and it worked well:

What a fascinating, on-the-edge-of-your-seat account! The images are excellent, worth all the trouble, especially the composite, which would make a great print sale offering on TOP. Well done, Dennis, and thank you, Mike, for publishing it.

The dedication to photography doesn't ruin the experience, it creates a different one, one of directed purpose. Sometimes it is wasted, but when it does work out, it can be very very satisfying. Even for something as rare as a total eclipse.

I was particularly inspired by seeing the film 'Eclipse' from Salomon Freeski, in which photographer Reuben Krabbe attempts to get a shot of skiers in front of a 2015 solar eclipse in the arctic. Their ambitions and stress levels were pretty extreme, but it gave me some idea of the sort of planning required for such shots (plus the luck involved).

It's awesome, watch if you have 30 minutes:

My mini expedition last week played out in a similar way, though with somewhat less complex goals (view totality from a mountain, photograph the moon's shadow as it moves across the distant landscape). Wildfires made everything uncertain, from what areas and roads would be closed or open, to problems of smoke obscuring visibility (...and where would the crowds be?). But I was still able to arrive on my chosen mountain more than a day early and spent the day before scouting locations. Much of what I had envisioned in Google Earth went out the window as certain realities became apparent on location (smoke was pretty bad, too). But I found a good spot, had a reasonably detailed shot plan, and luck came around. I had a Pentax K5 with 200mm lens on tripod dedicated to the sun, and a Kx with 15mm handheld. I had thought that I wasn't so interested in close-up context-free shots of the sun, since everybody else can get those without being on a mountain, but the appeal of this opportunity was still too great for me! So remote and auto-bracketing made that fairly easy (and the fact that 200mm was not so close to require tracking). Autoexposure would have been fine for the wide angle camera, except that I had it accidentally set to +0.7 compensation (about the opposite of what I wanted). But that wasn't so bad to ruin the shots.

My good luck was that winds shifted and kept smoke from being in the worst places, and I also got a surprise extra subject, as one other viewer arrived at my spot at the last minute (almost! 10 minutes before totality), which definitely made for some better shots.

moments before second contact


A tracking mount would have helped a lot! Not because I was using enough magnification to need it for stable exposures, but because the clouds varied from "blue sky" to "can't tell where the sun was" -- which, with 1000mm-equivalent, made it hard to ever find the sun in the viewfinder on a tripod-mounted camera. (Having to switch back and forth between filter and no filter made it a LOT harder, too.) The totality shot I got was with an emergency switch to hand-held 200mm; with that I was able to find the sun. No filter, the clouds were providing enough filter that with the official solar filter nothing was visible at that moment (changing second by second of course).

I'm so glad I didn't take the various advice I saw against trying to photograph my first solar eclipse; without the photos it would have felt largely like a waste to me. (But I didn't try to do anything particularly difficult photographically, counting on other people to shoot and post those.)

I watched the total eclipse in my dad's hometown of Johnston City, Illinois. He and my mom are buried there. We had perfectly clear skies directly overhead while Carbondale, Illinois, only 20 miles west was cloudy. The second of these pictures shows the 360-degree sunset during totality.

I spent months planning—and practicing—how I was going to shoot. And when it happened, I still forgot some things and made a few mistakes. Here are a few of my post-eclipse notes:

And, then it began. A small nick in the sun from the encroaching moon. Crowds were briefly excited, but quickly became subdued as we waited for totality. It was warm, but slowly cooled as the sun's disk was blocked. The light became soft. Crescent sun shadows were everywhere. Twilight was upon us but the sun was still too bright to watch. The Diamond Ring effect was stunning and the crowds cried out in awe. A few more seconds and TOTALITY. It became dark and we could look at the sun and see a "hole in the sky." It was an emotional moment and I was surprised.

I forgot to look around me for the shadow and light in the distance. I forgot to look for the planets in the sky. I forgot to look for the "shadow bands." I did remember to take photos at a variety of exposures but forgot to implement some of the important details. I forgot a lot of things but I'll never forget TOTALITY.

It was over too quickly and the Diamand Rings reappeared, followed by a thin crescent. The moment was gone—but the memory will remain.

In spite of the mistakes, I still managed to capture a few good images. Chalk that one up to lots of practice.

Oops. Here are my eclipse pictures.


The guys at LensRentals have a post on their blog about some of the eclipse-damaged gear that was returned to them (they noted it was a very small percentage of what they rented, and that most of the guilty customers fessed up to it):


I chose a backcountry location discovered by William Henry Jackson to photograph the eclipse over the Tetons. Because contrarily to Dennis, I was interested in a landscape shot and in watching with my own eyes, my shooting plan to capture this iconic shot did not involve straight photography, but rather a timelapse and a 360-degrees panorama. Read my 2,500-word account here: https://www.terragalleria.com/blog/photographing-the-real-solar-eclipse-over-the-tetons/

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