Brian's Photo Blog — Article 677
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Living and Photographing in the Path of Totality
Thursday 31 August 2017   —   Category: Shooting
After nearly nine years of writing ar­ti­cles for my three blogs (see the master article listing), today’s is number 1,000. That’s a whole lotta words!

The next milestone will be when I reach 1,000 articles on this photo blog — only 323 to go.
To celebrate this achievement, I am sharing with you my experience during a recent special occurrence: the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.

The town I live in, Albany, Oregon, was in the path of totality. So my cousin Jeff (our moms are sisters) drove 1,000 miles from Fallbrook, California just to view and record the eclipse.

On the morning of the eclipse there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I told Jeff that the sky is always  cloudless in Oregon!
Around 7:00 AM my cousin and I start­ed setting up our equipment and testing it to make sure it was working properly.

I was glad that we could experience the eclipse from the comfort of my own backyard, instead of enduring the traffic and crowds at other Oregon locations.

Jeff had quite the setup: My setup had numerous components as well:

In order to protect my camera equipment and to get the correct exposure while photographing the blindingly-​bright sun, I used a Hoya NDX400 neutral density filter, which reduced the light hitting the camera sensor by 9 stops.

But even with this filter there was too much light coming in. As I rummaged through my collection of filters, I found one I had forgotten about: a Hoya R-72 infrared filter. After putting that on top of the neutral density filter and then check­ing the exposure settings, I found that it reduced the light by another 13 stops. That did the trick!
The photo to the right shows me taking a picture of the LCD screen of my Olym­pus OM-D E-M5 camera. Not only do you see the contents of the screen, but you also see a reflection of my hands, face, and the camera I was taking the picture with.

In the center of the screen is the sun, shortly before the eclipse began. The sun is tinted pink because of the infrared fil­ter. The blue color filling most of the LCD screen is the shadow clipping in­di­ca­tor, which gives visual feedback to help set the correct exposure.
With his small telescope and smartphone camera combination my cousin got some great shots of the sun, including this one showing a number of sunspots.
While waiting in the backyard for totality to arrive, Jeff (left) and I used my iPad 2 to Skype with my mom (his aunt) in California.

Our matching hats were a surprise and complete coincidence! From the looks of it we could be brothers.
I programmed the above-​mentioned in­ter­val­om­e­ter to take a picture of the sun during the eclipse once every 60 seconds. Because I took ad­di­tion­al photos off that schedule, I ended up with nearly 150 images.

I selected 32 of them, each taken about five minutes apart, to create some sort of visual presentation of the entire eclipse. One of the 32 is shown to the right.

You might think it looks more like a graphic than an actual photo, but that is a result of increasing the contrast during post-processing to eliminate any unwanted stray light.
Just minutes before the start of totality an airplane zoomed overhead, leaving an artistic contrail near the eclipsing sun.

Based upon the low altitude and unusual flight path, I’m certain the plane was carrying eclipse watchers.

When totality finally arrived, I took the two filters off the lens. At that point everything went to hell! Suddenly, my camera was not functioning properly. Even though I ad­just­ed the exposure settings, when I snapped the shutter the result was totally black.
During almost the entire 90 to 120 seconds of totality, I was wrestling with my camera rather than experiencing the awesomeness of the mo­ment. I only glanced up at the totally eclipsed sun once. Finally, near the very end of totality, I managed to get three shots, the last of which is shown to the right. Click it for a larger version.

Four days later I read an article entitled Con­fes­sions of a Failed Eclipse Photographer. I wish I had followed the author’s excellent advice: don’t “even waste your time trying to photograph it. Experience it instead. I can’t agree more. ‘Ex­pe­ri­ence’ is the key word — there is far more to experiencing one than just seeing one. And no mere photograph can do [an eclipse] the slight­est amount of justice. They are just photographs, but an eclipse is an ECLIPSE!” Live and learn.
A couple of minutes before totality Jeff turned on the dashcam in his car parked out front. I took the resulting 5 minute clip and sped it up to last only 23 seconds. Click on the following video to check it out.
After the climax of totality, the rest of the eclipse was merely afterglow. Once it was all finished and we had packed up our gear, Jeff and I headed to the McMenamins Monroe Brewpub in nearby Corvallis for one more experience to add to my Mc­Men­a­mins Passport adventure. I sipped on a pint of Path of Totality IPA which had been concocted just for the occasion. According to the brewer:

“It was forty years ago that the last solar event of note occurred and I saw it far from the path of totality. Enjoy this straight­for­ward aromatic brew and look forward to August 21st, when you’ll have the chance to see the awesome spectacle that results when the planets get in each others way.” Meas­ure­ments: 6.2% ABV • 48 IBU
I wasn’t exactly longing for an IPA after photographing the eclipse, but I did want to try this special event beer, and I for sure wanted to get the one day only Total Solar Eclipse 8/21/17 stamp for my McMenamins Passport.
Mission accomplished on both accounts! I‘m not much of an IPA fan, but this one was fairly mild, so it was OK.

The place was packed, so we sat at the bar. This was Jeff’s first time at a Mc­Men­a­mins, and his first time enjoying a blackberry cider. I think he enjoyed Mc­Men­a­mins, and the cider even more!
Later that evening I realized that the security camera in the backyard had captured our entire morning of eclipse watching. I took the resulting 5 hours of footage and sped it up to last less than 4 minutes. Click on the following video to check it out. It is interesting how the shadows move around. Also, it is very cool how the camera switched into night mode because it was so dark during totality!
When it came time to sort through, edit, and display my eclipse photos, I wanted to present them in a manner that communicated the entire event. In the end, I came up with three different collages.

The one I like the best is shown to the right — click on it to see a larger version. It was not my first effort, but my third, inspired by a photo I saw on the Wikipedia page for the eclipse.

The first collage is a 32 photo sequence. The second is like the third, but instead of the images being arranged in a circle, they are laid out lin­e­ar­ly. Each collage gives you a different per­spec­tive on the same event.
Exactly a week after the eclipse I looked out the window around 9:30 PM and was astonished to see a red moon. So I quickly mounted my Panasonic 35–100 lens onto my Olympus E-M5 camera, ran downstairs and into the backyard, and took some handheld shots. Then I decided to put the camera on a tripod and take some more pictures. Here is the best one, which was the closest to what I was seeing with my eyes. Yes, it was really that red, due, I believe, to smoke from the numerous wildfires raging across the state.

The best photo from myself, my wife and my cousin are presented in the new Total Solar Eclipse 2017 album.
For more tales about other locations, see My McMenamins Passport Adventure.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 677
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