Sunday, October 1, 2017

08/21/17 The Great American Solar Eclipse

Photographing the total solar eclipse on August 21st in Hopkinsville, KY

On August 21st, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to photograph the Great American Solar Eclipse. In days prior, I  monitored the weather models for several days trying to plan my route to view the solar eclipse. This was not an easy decision to make however. I had originally planned to head into Missouri near St. Joseph, MO to photograph the event. The cloud forecast unfortunately for several days kept showing thick cloud-cover in this particular area which forced me to amend my plans and look at other locations with optimal weather conditions to view the eclipse. I ending up settling initially on traveling down to southern Illinois since it appeared clouds would not be an issue in this area. It appeared a complex of thunderstorms would stay just to the north of this area across northern and central Illinois on August 21st during the solar eclipse. On August 20, I began traveling from Peoria, IL to Marion, IL to beat the traffic that was projected for the event the following day. The traffic heading down the Marion, IL was surprisingly not bad at all after leaving around midday on Sunday. I had planned to spend the night sleeping in my car since hotels had been booked for months all across the zone of totality in southern Illinois and Kentucky. With that being said, I kept checking for any hotel cancellations throughout the day and I ended up nabbing one at a America's Best Value Inn in Marion, IL. The hotel was well...what you would expect, but regardless I was thankful to find a hotel and get a good night's sleep since I knew I would be getting up quite early the next morning to check the weather models in regards to cloud-cover. I woke up before 5:00am to check weather models to check the cloud-cover forecast. It was looking good in this area, but not great. It appeared that the complex of thunderstorms in northern Illinois would stay far enough to the north to not allow many high-level cirrus clouds to push south into southern Illinois. That was the good news, the bad news though was that the models were starting to pick up on initiating some thunderstorms around the start of the solar eclipse. At 6:00am, I made my decision to not risk a passing cumulus cloud or developing thunderstorm ruining an event like this so I decided I would travel down I-24 into Kentucky toward Clarksville, TN where I felt like the odds of seeing any cloud-cover would be very slim. After a hour or two heading southeast I pulled off the interstate outside Hopkinsville, KY. I felt this area was far enough southeast that any diurnal cumulus clouds would be less likely to form. This area was cloud-free for much of the morning and I began setting up my tripod to take some test exposures with my solar filter before the event. I ended up using a crop sensor Canon Rebel T5i to photograph the solar eclipse along with my Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 G2 Di VC telephoto-zoom lens. As midday arrived, "first contact" of the eclipse began and I could see cumulus clouds to my northwest building where I had been previously. They were far enough away however that I felt confident that any clouds passing in front of the eclipse would be nonexistent. At this point, we were getting really close to totality now and I looked up and was grateful to see no passing clouds nearby. Finally, the much anticipated totality began around 1:25pm and it was an incredible experience! 2 minutes and 40 seconds was not enough!  Street lights turned on, crickets started chirping, and the sky looked amazing! It went by so fast though especially when photographing the totality. Once totality ended I stayed behind while everyone in the area packed up and hit the road. I wanted to photograph the last few stages of the eclipse sequence and let some of the traffic clear out. By mid-afternoon, I began the long drive through Illinois where I found "traffic apocalypse" along I-57. The traffic was insane and even alternate routes were crowded on the drive back north through Illinois. It was a 5 and a half hour drive that took nearly 9 hours! It was crazy but well worth all the hassle getting back home however. I've added photos from the memorable day below:

A composite of images I shot of the total solar eclipse!
I begin snapping some test shots of the sun disk...whats really cool is the sunspots you can see on the surface of the sun!
Eerie to see the sun take on the shape of a crescent moon...
 "Turn off the light"
 Changing the color temperature...
 I rank this experience equal to seeing my first tornado!
A warmer look since we are viewing the sun afterall!
"The black hole"
"Bad mood rising"
Creepy, but surreal!
 "Shock and awe"
No it's not Planet X...
Kind of cool to play around with the color temperature of the solar eclipse...
The end of totality nears...
The moment when you realize this incredible 2 minutes and 40 seconds is about to come to an abrupt end...
Totality and prominence!
"And the sun became black as sackcloth" Revelations 6:12
"Bucket list'
"Quicker than a ray of light"
"Blinded by the light"
Love it!
The solar eclipse is about over as "last contact" is about to occur...

That wraps of this post. I was quite happy to be able to witness and photograph this rare event. I can still remember watching an annular eclipse in 1994 in Kewanee, IL, as a young child in elementary school, but that doesn't even compare to shock and awe at totality during a total solar eclipse. Hopefully, god willing I'll be able to photograph the next one across the U.S. on April 8th, 2024 as well. It really can't come soon enough! Anyhow, I traveled to Lincoln, IL on August 26th and photographed the hot-air balloon festival once again and I'll be posting photos from that evening in an upcoming post.