Needless to say, the total solar eclipse of 2017 across the entire US was just spectacular! The experience of seeing the world go dark in midday, feeling the hot summer air become cool, and collectively feeling the magic; for those who have never had the experience, it is akin to the best music concert you could attend. The resulting photos were also magnificent.
Our team consisted of Eddie Tapp and Judy Host, Kevin Ames, Theresa Sicurezza; Lance McAfee and his nephew Sam Meyer; and my then fiancée Debbie Reese whom I’ve since married and her son, Jeremiah Reese.
We photographed the event from Marble, North Carolina, where we experienced 2 minutes and 36 seconds of totality…nearly the maximum (2 minutes, 40 seconds) for the event regardless of where on earth it was witnessed!
While I was set up with a 300mm maximum zoom, members of our group had 150-600mm lenses, and some with teleconverters to result in 1200mm of focal length. That’s close to the perfect magnification on a full frame (24x36mm) 35mm form factor camera.
As I discussed in the previous article about the 2017 eclipse, the relationship between format, focal length, subject size, and subject distance is key to deriving the best choice for image size on the chosen camera format.
Our team also used a variety of filters, some had the simple folding cardboard holders from B&H photo; I made mine from a Baader Scientific mirror sheet and PVC plumbing.
None the less, we all used solar protection until a few seconds before and after totality. Once the sun was eclipsed by the moon, it was night photography!
The importance of reviewing the information: this is not the last eclipse that we will have available to us here in the US in our lifetimes. In fact, there will be a total eclipse in 2024 that will actually cross the maximum totality path of the 2017 eclipse at a right angle, traversing through Mexico and in the US, covering Texas to New England. See the link from NASA:
The eclipse magnitude for 2024 will be 1.0565, which is actually greater than the 2017 eclipse (1.031), and will last 4 minutes and 28 seconds, nearly twice as long as the 2017 event! Magnitude refers to the observed size of the moon and the sun. A magnitude greater than 1 means the moon blocks more of the sun while one that is less than 1 means it covers less (meaning the more of the sun shows). A less-than-one magnitude means there is no totality. If this next eclipse is of interest to you, it’s something to put on your calendar early for all of the logistical considerations; travel, accommodations, etc. Note that central Texas at the Mexico border will be the area in the US with greatest totality and longevity. Also note that the more rural an area to which you might want to travel, the fewer hotel rooms are likely to be available. The closest access might be in a place called (no kidding) Radar Base, TX, at the intersection of routes 131 and 277. There is actually an airport extremely nearby, Maverick County Memorial International Airport.
If you are so bitten by the eclipse bug and are willing to travel outside the US, you’ll find that there are total eclipses taking place fairly frequently around the Earth. The next big one is on July 2nd, 2019. That one is a bit challenging to photograph as it’s in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, more or less due south of Arizona and latitude equivalent of mid-South America.
Another total eclipse shortly after that will also be a South American event, December 14th, 2020.
There are also many annular eclipses taking place as well; ones with magnitudes less than 1, where the moon is closer to the sun/further from the Earth and never totally blocks all light. But frankly, once you’ve experienced totality, annual eclipses aren’t that much fun photographically. I’d driven up to Saratoga, NY to photograph a .94 magnitude annular on May 10, 1994. The phrase “nice, but not thrilling” comes to mind. Yes, the shadows from tree leaves were strange, and the overall illumination on the Earth was quite noticeably dimmer. The sun was a mere ring around the moon. But it was not the magic of totality.