A total solar eclipse is a sight you never forget. Along with good mirages and auroras, it is one of the visual wonders of the natural world well worth crossing oceans for. The next “convenient” one will sweep through Mexico, Texas and upwards towards the North East of the United States. If health, economics, medieval politics and flight shamers allow, I’ll be there. Wanna join me?
I made the photograph above in Turkey, in 2006, with minimal gear. A light tripod, a cheap 3″ refractor, an even cheaper home-made solar filter, and whatever camera was mine at the time (presumably my Nikon D80, but I’m no longer sure). Here’s a photo of the kit, operated by yours truly, photographed by very early DS contributor Caroline.
This was my second eclipse photo shoot. The first occurred closer to home, in 1999 France, in Beauvais, and felt much more like a suspense movie. My daughter was born a few days before so, up to the last moment, we didn’t know whether my wife would be out of the clinic. Then there was the drive from Paris (where we lived at the time). If you enjoy apocalyptic movies where some sort of cataclysm forces millions onto the roads, this would have been right up your alley. Except we were all heading towards the event, each of us anticipating this very rare opportunity to witness an astronomical phenomenon which, in the past, had led to the erection of temples, the freeing of Tintin (inspired by a trick played by Christopher Columbus on Jamaican natives), the test and confirmation of Einstein’s General Relativity theory, wars to be started or ended. And the post-apo vibe rose to a whole other level as the time grew near to the event with us all stuck in traffic and, suddenly, people lost it and abandoned their cars on the road-side (yes, honestly) to rush up to hilltops on foot while we weren’t even in the totality zone. Oh dear.
Motorway authorities eventually came to the rescue opening all possible service exits, tolls, gas stations … and we landed in someone’s field within minutes of totality. Under a cloud cover. But, luck, meteorology, or answers to the prayers of the world’s most-stressed out photographer, parted the clouds as the moon finally obscured the sun’s disk to reveal it’s shiny hippie hair. I took one memorable photograph on that day. During the minutes before totality, my 4 year-old sun rushed out of the car to ask who had “switched the lights off” while he was reading his comics! And my daughter got hungry. So my one photograph of the day is one of my wife breast-feeding my daughter, seen through the windscreen of our car, with the solar eclipse reflected to the side, surrounded by clouds. It was quite a stunning photograph, now lost – all copies of it – to Memorex’s shit technology. Alas poor Kodak, I remember it well.
Totality lasts only a few minutes. Two to four, on average. But a lot goes on before, during and after. In no particular order :
And, of course, there’s photography involved 😉 It’s quite technical and very interesting. The first pic above isn’t a single photograph but a stack of multiple frames shot at different exposures to get all the various parts of the corona. I actually overexposed the center. Otherwise, pink solar prominences would have been visible on the surface of the sun. My bad, I was just beginning and had very little tech info about what to do.
If you encorporate the area in the immediate viscinity of the totality path into the potential tally, that makes for a lot of subjects to observe and photograph. In fact, it’s far too much for a single person.
On the spot, you’ll want to enjoy every precious second of the show and to capture as much as you possibly can. This overload leads to frustration during what should be a rare moment of pure awe.
So I’m suggesting a group project 🙂 We could each focus on a single simple task and curate the group’s result into one body of work. What say you? Heck we could even sync with others further afield …
For example, something I’ve never seen done is a time-lapse of totality. Imagine people photographing totality at regular intervals along the eclipse’s path. Line those up and you get a time lapse of the sun’s corona over a few hours 🙂 Moving solar flares during an eclipse, anyone ?
But, even at a local scale, we could each focus on a specific aspect of what’s around us from the list above, and more, and create some sort of group document.
Plus it’s a cool chance to finally meet the faces behind the names 🙂
What say you? If there is interest, I’ll publish maps and tutorials during the months running up to the event. I plan to head West of San Antonio, or the West coast of Mexico (near Puerto Vallarta) as the best locations for maximum totality duration are in parts of Mexico I’m not comfortable travelling to. A good starting point, then, might be to find local knowledge among readers and their friends and relatives. I’ve identified nice places to stay and to observe from already, but eyes on the ground are better than Internet pages and Google Maps 😉
The date will be April 8th 2024. We have time, but need to start planning, because – from experience – everything (flights, hotels, gear) is booked years ahead.
Who’s in? 🙂
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