A Look Back at the Great North American Solar Eclipse

Great Expectations

I had been waiting for this solar eclipse for ages. I’ve taken photos of many partial eclipses, but I’ve never had the chance to see totality. There were other total eclipses in North America, but they never happened when I was free. Luckily, this one was special, as it was close to my home. Seeing this phenomenon was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. It was truly magnificence in action. This is a look back at the solar eclipse. The planning and ultimately the experience.

I had many ideas for photographing this eclipse. I packed four cameras, each with a specific task in mind. One camera was to shoot a landscape timelapse, another camera was slated to use a long lens on a gimbal, another camera with another long lens was to be set on a Benro Polaris which would track the Sun, and lastly, a hydrogen-alpha infrared converted camera also fitted with a long lens on yet another gimbal. The gear was listed on a spreadsheet with its assignment with all the other necessary gizmos. As my friend quipped as we loaded his car, NASA gear was coming on board. Ha!

Given all the gear I was hauling and my plans for photography, the most important goal was to witness the eclipse with my eyes.

The Reality

So, what ended up happening? I used only two out of the four cameras and I made sure I took the time to witness the incredible sight with my own eyes.

Did I use any of the power banks or other assorted gear? Nope. From my spreadsheet, I only used two cameras, two lenses, two solar filters, a gimbal, the Benro Polaris, and two tripods. I much rather have too much gear and not need it than need it and not have it. Oddly, I don’t have the same viewpoint when it comes to packing clothing. But that’s another story.

I achieved my primary goals, albeit without all my cameras. The vision of the eclipse is etched into my memory. The photographs let me revisit the moment and feel the experience all over again.

I have thousands of frames from both cameras. The most successful captures came from my Nikon Z9 with a 200-500mm lens mounted on the Benro Polaris that tracked the Sun. Using the tracker helped me relax and enjoy the moment. I could see the Sun on the camera’s LCD and it stayed steady in its center position thanks to the work of my trusty tracker. My other camera was on the gimbal. Over the span of the eclipse, I pretty much ended up ignoring the second camera because I was thrilled at what I was seeing on the Z9.

Once the tracker was configured, I set the camera to shoot every 20 seconds. I used the Thousand Oaks Solar glass filter on this camera as I like the yellow color of the Sun. My other camera, a Nikon D850, was fitted with a 500mm f/4 lens and a Kendrick Astro Solar mylar filter. This filter is excellent but it gives a whitish look to the Sun. This is easy to adjust in post. Add a warming photo filter adjustment layer to make it “sunnier”.

Shooting every 20 seconds gave me options. Besides being an obvious timelapse, I can pull out frames at specific times to create a sequence. One of the sequences I have assembled as of this writing is comprised of frames every three minutes, over a span of 51 minutes. At one minute before totality, I removed the solar filter and bracketed 9 frames at full-stop intervals. Ratcheting the base shutter speed for each bracket sequence gave me a large number of frames that were well-detailed and exposed. Setting alarms helped note the filter off and filter on times.

⁠The Moon moving across the Sun heading towards totality. Note the sunspots.

πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 1/250 second

The Sun is currently in a very active period giving us incredible prominences. The large bright pink prominence was clearly visible to the naked eye. The smaller prominences are visible in the telephoto image below.

πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 1/640 second⁠

The diamond ring was amazing to see! Note the hot pink prominences on the right side of the Sun.

πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 1/160 second

Totality. The mind-bending view that has rocked humanity through the ages.

πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 37 frame HDR.

A sequence assembled from frames from the timelapse. 51 minutes of images, each frame 3 minutes apart.

Partials – πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 1/250 second

Totality – πŸ“· – Nikon Z9 πŸ”˜ – Nikon 200-500mm 🎞 – ISO 100 πŸ”˜ – f/5.6 πŸ•’ – 1/20 second

Warp Overdrive Commenced

I am a lifelong lover of observing the heavens. Experiencing this eclipse has electrified my already intense addiction to celestial events. Total eclipses occur roughly every 18 months. The challenge is the location. I have my sights set on the next total eclipse that will be visible in Greenland, Iceland, and Spain in 2026. Note that the next total eclipse that will grace North America is in 2044. If you have never witnessed a total eclipse, I urge you to make an effort to see one. No words can describe the feeling of witnessing it with your own eyes.

Viewing a total solar eclipse seems to create a conduit to our ancestors from ages past. This awe is ancient and is a reminder of the incredible power of the universe and subsequently, the reality that humans are but ineffectual grains of dust.

Have you experienced a total solar eclipse? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Β© Silvana Della Camera

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