Do I have everything? Nikon Df. Fully-clean 32g SD card. Fully-charged batteries. Intervalometer. Filter. Two lenses. Tripod. Folding chair. Snacks. Cold drinks. A car with a full tank of gas.
Yeah, I’ve prepared for this like a general prepares for invasion.
Last-minute adjustments. Last-minute weather examinations. And here I am. In Clinton, South Carolina.
Ready for a three-hour event with a three-minute totality.
One year ago, I participated in an online “Secret Santa” gift exchange on the social media site reddit. My Santa sent me a solar filter from Thousand Oaks Optical, and challenged me to photograph the upcoming solar eclipse.
And in that time, I’ve prepared and planned like a madman. And as the day of the eclipse arrived, I set upon my journey. My “vision quest,” if you will. A vision quest, of course, with protective eyewear so as to not burn out my retinas upon gazing at the celestial event.
I’ve battled traffic jams that seemed to stretch all the way to Virginia. I’ve adjusted my choice of lens to create what I hoped would be a sweeping, stunning, superlative swath of sunlight and shadow soaring in my screen.
I’ve checked the weather reports more often than a daily fantasy sports fan checks the injury reports. And at the last possible check, I saw the words “partly cloudy.”
Looks like I’m dealing with partly cloudy whether I like it or not.
After a stay at the local Comfort Suites in Clinton – and a last-minute supper at the local Waffle House – I woke up and prepared for the big day. I had already coordinated with the local executive assistant in the City of Clinton, a nice girl named Amanda, and she promised she would block off a great area for me to set up my gear.
And she did. She even found a monument that I could photograph as part of the background.
A nice big tall Confederate States of America monument.
Too bad it was not in the proper line for photographing the eclipse…
Across the street was a grassy berm, adjacent to an old seed storage building. And lo and behold, there was an old ghost sign painted on the building’s side.
Gotta get a shot of that…
That would look so awesome if the eclipse went over that building … unfortunately, the building was 90 degrees in the wrong direction.
No matter, I’ll just shoot what I can from here on this berm.
A couple park their gear next to me. “How far did you travel for the eclipse?” I asked.
“We came from Long Island.”
“Nice. I drove from Albany.”
“You got us beat,” the man said. He and his wife were totally prepared for the eclipse – not only did they have a full-powered lens and a solar filter, they – like me – had downloaded an app that counted down all the eclipse stages, from start to finish. They even offered to store my sodas in their styrofoam cooler to keep the drinks chilled. Very nice.
A few wispy clouds in the air. Nothing to fret about.
Two gentlemen set up their gear to my left. They brought a Meade telescope and a welder’s mask – the welder’s mask would be used as a solar filter to capture the intensity of the sun without burning a person’s retinas or a camera’s digital sensor. We exchanged “I’ll take a selfie of you if you take a selfie of me” images.
Another gentleman arrived – he was going to shoot the eclipse on film, with a vintage 35mm film camera. “This camera is 32 years old,” he said to me. “I show this camera to people, and they don’t know what all the knobs do. They’re not used to manual controls on the camera.”
A kindred spirit. And trust me, if I had acquired a telescopic lens for Leica Green or Kodak Red or the Rollei, I would have shot film on this day as well.
And at about 1:10 p.m., the sun and moon went into their dance. A little chunk of moon clipped through the sun – if it were a clock, the moon came in at the sun’s 2:00 direction.
We were all excited.
Then the clouds rolled in. Big sunlight-blocking clouds.
I turned to my right. “We can still get this.”
“Yes we will,” he smiled.
The two men on my left were also very enthusiastic. “The clouds will pass,” was their comment. “I heard a news report that down in Columbia, South Carolina, they’re looking at thunderstorms right now.”
We waited. And waited.
And eventually … the clouds shifted. We saw more of the eclipse.
Meanwhile, my camera was taking rapid-fire shots – my shutter release captured an image once every fifteen seconds. I’m not letting the sun get blocked off again…
Oh crap. The clouds are back. You’re not making this easy, Mother Nature. What are these clouds? Nimbus? Stratus? Cumulus? Piss-Chuck-Off-us?
Eventually they floated away, almost taunting me with their appearance.
Nevertheless, I persevered. 😀
While the Nikon Df did its job, I kept taking pictures with my BlackBerry PRIV camera phone. I only had one solar filter lens to play with; so I used the material from some protective viewing glasses and shot a few pictures. This one was the best of the batch.
Clouds came back. Damn it clouds, go find Charlie Brown and rain on him already. Good grief.
Eventually the clouds and the sun kept pace with each other, just slightly blocking our view.
Ten minutes to totality.
Eight minutes to totality.
And finally … without a moment to spare …
The clouds floated off.
Just in time for totality. Quick, Miller, get the filter off the camera, and hit that shutter button like you’re playing Asteroids at the arcade!!
And … I got it. Totality. Other people with their telescopes and high-powered lenses were able to pick up more detail – heck, the woman in front of me got the elusive diamond shot and Baily’s Beads – but I was happy with what I snagged.
Totality ending… put the filter back on, Miller, and keep shooting.
I kept on shooting until the sun and the eclipse moved out of my camera’s locked field of view. Everybody else showed off their digital captures, and high-fives were distributed all around.
This is so completely awesome. It was worth the drive down here to get this shot.
And as I returned to the hotel, I looked through the images. The clouds wreaked havoc on my plans for a stitched photo series … but some of the cloud-and-eclipse exposures actually gave me an idea.
Work with me on this.
There it is. My 2017 Eclipse photo. Sweet like a treat.
Much thanks and appreciation to the City of Clinton, South Carolina and its Division of Special Projects, as well as to the kind folk at the Comfort Suites in Clinton, S.C. I hope everybody who visited the totality path today got the photos they wanted, and I’m glad that everybody in my group had an amazing time.
I certainly did.
Eclipse photographed. Challenge accepted, unlocked, and achieved.
And if I hit the 2024 total eclipse that is scheduled to tour Buffalo, Rochester and Watertown … I will be ready again. For sure.
Oh, and Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks … you’re next on the clock. I’ve got plans for an amazing photograph there. And it will happen. I promise.