Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Photographing the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

It is a rare situation when you get to gaze at an event that has not taken place in the United States for nearly 40 years. This I speak of is the Great American Solar Eclipse that took plays August 21st, 2017. Calling it the Great American Solar Eclipse may seem a big egotistical of a country to call such a celestial event as to being owned by one country. Well, it is a bit simpler then that, and is more of a matter of pride. Not that other countries have not had the same opportunity, but quite simply this event creates a few 1st times.

  • This is the 1st time since 1979 that a Total Solar Eclipse has been visible int he United States.
  • This is the 1st time since 1918 that a Total Solar Eclipse has been visible Coast to Coast in the United States.
  • This is the 1st time in recorded history that a Total Solar Eclipse has been visible in a single country only.
The next total eclipse to be visible in the United States will be in 2024.

April 8, 2024

Lasting a maximum of 4 minutes, 28 seconds, this is the next major total eclipse that will hit North America.

The path of totality first hits Mexico in Mazatlán, followed by Durango, Torreón and Piedras Negras. In the US, the path of totality will pass over:

  • San Antonio and Dallas
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Indianapolis
  • Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio
  • Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Buffalo and Rochester, New York
  • Montpelier, Vermont
  • Caribou, Maine

With that said, I had the opportunity to venture to the West coast to view this years Eclipse. I chose not to travel north to the path of totality due to fuel cost, as stations were raising them, as well as traffic. None the less I was able to capture some "stellar" shots out of Mt. Shasta, CA.

Set up and prepared
 Arriving early at the Shastice Park, I set up my gear. My tools for this celestial event included a tripod with a video/photo rig mounted on top if, with a Canon XSi atop it. Fasten to the front was a 300mm zoom lens. While my solar protection for the lens began as a auto adjusting Welder's Mask, a nearby observer having brought a few viewing filters, gave me one in exchange for later emailing her images.

Photograph to calibrate settings
photo by Errol Jud Coder

As the eclipse approached is transit, predicted to be at 9:03am PST, the park began to fill. An event tent with donated mimosas, moon pies and sun chips was erected and serving people on the other end of the park. But, I kept my location, free of the crowd. Despite that fact, I still attacked people around to look at my rig anyways. Guess its to be expected. 

To take photos of an object through a filter that completely blackens out everything around, but the sun is quite tricky. The settings have to be done just right to counter balance the extreme loss of light with the extreme brightness of the sun itself. It is because of the intensity of the sun that people were warned not to look through filters not designed for solar viewing, or through goggles/welder's masks of #14 darkness or darker. If done for too long, the light would fry camera sensors, and cause damage to people's eyes. So in having the appropriate equipment I made adjustments using the sun itself. My initial settings were f8.0 and 1/100th at 400 ISO.

At precisely the predicted time, the moon began to drift across the top right corner of the sun. Little by little it took bits out of the sun as if it was a wheel of cheese being chewed on by a hungry mouse. As the moon passed from the top right to bottom left, you could see the section on the right side that was left uncovered. It is this portion, nearly 10% that would have been covered were I in the path of totality, some 350 miles to the north. A

As the moon transitioned across the sun, I had to make minor adjustments as less light came through. As I made my changes over the hour, the sun continued it's path
Full Eclipse Progression
photo by Errol Jud Coder

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