Carolina Wild Photo (the blog)

The Total Solar Eclipse

by on Aug.22, 2017, under Rants, Raves & Ramblings

As you can see, I haven’t posted since March. The Bluebirds weren’t very cooperative this Spring, and nothing new visited the feeders during the Summer. And with the oppressive Summer heat, I don’t get out for photography much. However, there was one thing I did some planning for…… The Solar Eclipse of August 21. I could have stayed home and viewed a 90+% eclipse, which is more than I’ve ever had a chance to see, but with the circle of totality within a 5-6 hour drive, I decided to go for it…. totally… or rather totality.

My wife took the photo below
with her tablet before totality.

Here I'm watching the eclipse progression waiting to take photos at totality With the news media warning what a traffic nightmare it would be to go anywhere for the totality, I did some thinking. I decided a more rural, less populated spot in the totality path might possibly avoid much, if not all of the crowd that was predicted. I found and downloaded a neat file for Google Earth that showed the totality circle as it traversed the US into South Carolina. With that handy tool I zoomed into Google Earth looking for likely locations with public access near the center line of the totality path and settled on a Walmart parking lot in Newberry, SC.

Why there? It had stores, restaurants, restrooms and gas all within a short walking distance, and wasn’t close to any major highways, or interstates, or universities that might draw folks in.  It was a fairly small town I’d never heard of, just 10 miles from the center line, and there was lots of excess parking space. To the West of my spot was Greenville, SC, and Clemson University to draw a crowd. To the East of my spot was Columbia, SC, a touted hotspot that would surely draw hundreds of thousands and be a nightmare to deal with. With those glaring spotlights some 50 miles away on either side of me, I figured the moths would be drawn there and I’d be quietly left to my little out-of-the-way small town of no significance. I planned a route on smaller back roads away from any major roads or towns. Then I ordered my eclipse viewing glasses a month ahead of time and waited…. hoping for good weather and a blue sky on eclipse day.

My wife took this photo below with her tablet
during the darkness of totality, so the image
quality is not very good. Note the clouds on
the horizon in the background look like a
sunset though it is 2:40 in the afternoon.

A not so good shot of me checking images during totality. Kinda dark and taken with a tablet camera. I even found a motel, only two days before the trip, where we would stop over for the night on the first leg of the trip, leaving me with a shorter drive the next morning on eclipse day to reach my goal. To make a longer story shorter, the trip was a breeze. No traffic to deal with at all. It was a smooth ride from home to the motel, then from there to Newberry, SC the next morning. In the morning, however, the weather was beginning to worry me. The forecasts had not mentioned fog for that morning, but drive through it we did for the first hour. Then it cleared to a sky that slowly progressed from mostly blue, to more and more cloud cover. But by the time we reached Newberry at 11:00 am, the sky was back to mostly blue again.

We arrived at the Walmart, where the parking lot was already ringed with cars and tent canopies, and large motor homes, and campers, and buses. Despite that, I managed a parking spot just feet from the ideal one I had picked out on Google Earth that I thought might provide some shade.  It would be another 2-1/4 hours until the show would begin, so we settled in to wait, as we watched the clouds begin to creep back into view once more, puffing up overhead from little white pillows to larger,  grayer blankets drifting by. As the moon began to creep across the sun, the clouds passed by, giving us peeks, then taking them away, taunting us. As totality approached, clouds ominously ringed the horizon, and slipped by over us, making it impossible to guess if we would get to see totality at all.

The image below captures the “diamond ring” effect.

A not so good shot of me checking images during totality. Kinda dark and taken with a tablet camera. But then, some five minutes before totality, the clouds overhead magically parted and floated away to the east, allowing us a perfect spot of blue sky surrounding the sun, and stayed away for the rest of the celestial event. Luck was with us after all. Then it suddenly became much darker… totality. I had only 2-1/2 minutes of darkness, filled with frantic attempts to get some good images of this amazing sight with my 500mm lens and 1.4 teleconverter. I had not been able to do much to get set up ahead of totality, as I didn’t have a filter to use during the partial eclipse. I had to wait for totality to even point the camera properly. The sun was so high in the sky I thought I wouldn’t get the camera tilted up high enough on the tripod to get the sun in the viewfinder. I was guessing at exposures as I snapped away, stopping to check, then adjusting focus and trying again. At least I had an awesome closeup view through the camera lens. At one point I even felt a bit of emotion well up for a moment, but I didn’t have time to let it spread. I had to focus my mind and get the job done that I had come so far to do.

A not so good shot of me checking images during totality. Kinda dark and taken with a tablet camera.It was over all too quickly. The darkness before the totality was only a strange dim yellowish light, then a sudden darkness fell at totality, and lasted 2-1/2 minutes. Then as quickly as it came it was gone and that strange yellowish light came back…. like an overcast rainy evening just before the sun goes down behind clouds. Finally I took stock of my images. Among the fuzzy, poorly framed, blurred shots, I thankfully found a few decent ones, where I’d gotten the camera pointed straight up enough to capture what I had come for.

Luck had smiled on us and provided a perfect blue sky for the totality, and I had somehow managed to keep my cool just enough to get the shots I had hoped for, despite forgetting to put the camera in manual mode. So, now with one total eclipse under my belt, maybe I’ll be better prepared for the next one across the US in 2024.    … Fingers crossed.


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