My Solar Eclipse Chase

On June 25, I got inspired to photograph the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. I was sitting in my 97-year-old mother’s sitting room while she watched TV and I was reading articles on the Web.  Looking at a NASA map of the Zone of Totality, I estimated the cheapest flight from Pittsburgh to the Zone, would be Atlanta. I chose a site in South Carolina near the Georgia border. Concerned about supply and demand, I immediately booked plane tickets and a Hampton Inn and ordered solar glasses. Within a few days of hearing my crazy plan, my husband volunteered to come with me for moral support. My  mission to study specialized photographic techniques began.

Most helpful was the iBook “How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse” by Alan Dyer, who has traveled to numerous eclipse sites around the world. Dyer describes many different approaches and urges you to get geared up and practice. Which camera and which lens? Still photos or video? Weighing the relative difficulties of each, could I manage two set-ups, and still enjoy watching the eclipse?

I bought photographic solar filters in three sizes, an additional “Really Right Stuff” ball head for a second tripod and an intervalometer. I developed a plan to operate my Sony a7rII with a 24 mm lens and no filter on one tripod. An intervalometer would operate it automatically to take a photograph every 6 seconds for 90 minutes, so that later a time lapse video could be made. The second tripod would hold my Nikon D800 with a 200mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter (for a 280mm equivalent focal length), dedicated to taking close-ups of the Corona at Totality. Examining the options, I decided the image resulting from this set-up was my top choice. The close-up requires a solar filter to capture all the partial eclipse images.  During Totality I would remove the filter and bracket shots (ISO 100 and f/8) one stop apart from 1 second as the longest exposure to 1/1,000 second as the fastest (1 sec., 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000),  to capture the various levels of luminosity of the Corona. These images would later be combined with layers and masks to create one very special image. It was going to be tough to remain calm and also watch and wonder during Totality, as I knew I would feel really excited and Totality would last only 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

From Atlanta, we drove 2 hours north to a Hampton Inn in Hartwell, Georgia on Sunday night. On Monday morning, we left the hotel around 9am to drive another half hour to Anderson, SC to a recreational park I had pinpointed on Google Maps on Lake Hartwell. We arrived at the park, happy to find plenty of parking spaces, a lovely lake view, blue skies and a few trees to provide shade. Thanks to our Sewickley friend Sarah Hay Rawls, who lives in Atlanta now, we had some chairs to sit in while we waited 4 hours for the action to begin.

#southcarolina, #lakehartwell, #eclipse, #solareclipse, #eclipsechasing, #andersonsc, #nature
The still banks of Lake Hartwell made a serene setting to observe the day’s natural wonder.
#Sun, #solareclipse, #andersonsc, #readytogo, #nature, #photography, #lakehartwell, #eclipse
Blue skies and brilliant sunshine were a good omen as we arrived at Lake Hartwell to observe the Great American Solar Eclipse.

 

Just imagine how we felt as clouds formed just at the WRONG TIME and covered the Sun for most of the eclipse duration. Yes, weeks of focused study, a few hundred dollars in equipment, flights, hotels, rental car and two days of priceless spousal support would result in… what exactly?

Here is the image my Sony was capturing every 6 seconds. (Turn it off.) We looked at one another and shrugged.

#clouds, #solareclipse, #ithappens, #whatcanyoudo, #anderson, #southcarolina, #eclipse, #greatAmericaneclipse, #eclipse2017
While other parts of the sky remained clear, these heavy clouds covered the Sun during most of the solar eclipse as viewed from Anderson, South Carolina.

Okay, what is the good news? I captured a few close up images during the first few minutes of the partial eclipse.

#solareclipse, #greatamericaneclipse, #nikond800, #gotit, #andersonsc, #nature, #photography
We cheered as the eclipse began. My Nikon D800 was carefully focused on the Sun, so I captured the sun spots and some tonality, while the Moon took its first bite of the Sun.
#solareclipse, #greatamericaneclipse, #gotit, #andersonsc, #nikond800, #catchmeifyoucan, #nature, #photography
Clouds gave the Solar Eclipse a unique ghostly look. You can still see the sunspots. This is my favorite image.
#solareclipse, #eclipse, #partialeclipse, #clouds, #andersonsc, #nikond800, #nature, #photography, #phenomenon
Our last glimpse of the solar eclipse with clouds painting a shadow on the western edge.

The other advice that helped me manage my disappointment was from my photography mentor Gary Hart, an accomplished landscape photographer, who advised me to savor the moment and not get too involved fiddling with the camera during Totality. In fact, many solar eclipse experts emphasized that advice. Gary said, “I refuse to be so focused on getting the shot that I fail to appreciate this experience of a lifetime. I’ll take a great memory over a great photo anytime.”

We had a great experience in multiple ways — the wonderful Park family we met there, the serene setting by Hartwell Lake, the mystery of the darkening and lightening of the sky during Totality and the inexplicable special feeling that came with bearing witness to this phenomenon of Nature. I will post my video of totality in my next post.

#solareclipse, #photography, #zoneoftotality, #southcarolina, #andersonsc, #hartwelllake, #eclipsebuddies
My husband Charlie (yellow shirt) and me (blue shirt) with our eclipse buddies Don Park (left) and his son-in-law Dustin. Don is an authorized Nikon repair rep in Georgia, and Dustin works for NASA in Houston. They were as knowledgeable as they were kind!

Most Photographed Mountain in Iceland

Stock photos of Kirkjufell at sunset with three waterfalls in the foreground had captured my imagination before our Iceland trip. How I wanted to see that scene in person, and even take my own photo on location!  But alas, I realized that the sun doesn’t set in summer until close to midnight, and the logistics just would not work.

Would my only photo of Kirkjufell be this one through the bus window?

#kirkjufell, #snaefellsnes, #bus, #mostphotographedsight, #mountain, #blueandgreen
Polarizer in the bus window gave the sky an eerie effect, as I captured Kirkjufell while driving past. One can see the way the top of the mountain resembles a church (“kirk”) shape.

As our ship left the harbor that evening, I got one more chance to photograph Kirkjufell and the surrounding mountains. Note to Self: while capturing the iconic photo you admire can become a treasure hunt that grows into an obsession, there is much to be said for creating your own unique set of images, rather than duplicating the classic shot. In fact, I will remind myself that creating my own unique images is the best path to take.

#iceland, #kirkjufell, #grundarfjordur, #landscape, #sony, #landscape, #mostphotographed #mountain
Departing Grundarfjordur, Kirkjufell was sidelit in the evening light.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

After our glacier hike, we stopped at a little restaurant for some lamb soup, and were surprised to discover this beautiful coast line just a short walk from the restaurant.

This Western region of Iceland, just north of Reykjavik is one of my favorite regions in Iceland. When I return to Iceland someday for a few days of exploration by car, I will probably head up this way. In addition to the dormant volcano Snaefellsjokull and its glacier, one can also enjoy these sea cliffs, miles of sheep farms, lava fields and scenic mountains (more photos of the mountains to come).

#cliff, #basalt, #basaltcolumns, #coast, #iceland, #snaellsfessnes, #blueandgreen, #landscape, #nature, #sony
Coast of Snaefellsnes Peninsula with basalt columns — an interesting rock formation created as lava cools.

Our ship was docked in Grundarfjordur, and next we would return to the ship, passing the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. One of my goals of the Iceland trip was to capture my own photo of Kirkjufell, but the only opportunity I had was through the bus window. That would be one of many reasons to go back someday.

Whales in Iceland

It was a day multiple blessings and just one First World Problem. First, here are the blessings:

  1. We were on vacation in Iceland.
  2. The weather was sunny and warm (not typical).
  3. In Akureyri, we were going on a RIB (rubber inflatable boat) to observe whales in the fjord.
  4. Humpback whales feed in the Icelandic fjords in July.
  5. We had an experienced pilot and guide who have identified 150 humpback whales by name and understand a great deal about them.
  6. I kept my Sony a7IIr camera dry, and did not lose my sunglasses as we sped around the fjord.

So, what was the First World Problem?  We got so close to Jackson the humpback whale that I couldn’t get the whole whale in my frame! I caught myself exclaiming, “Oh my, we’re too close!” and heard a voice reply, “too close?”

Well, you see, I wasn’t really complaining. I was amazed. Thrilled. Grateful.

My husband was not behind a camera, and just watched the whale, seeing his eye.

#whale, #humpback, #iceland, #akureyri, #rib, #nature, #wildlife, #upclose
Jackson, the humpback whale, next to our boat. See his blow hole and part of his white dorsal fin under water.
#whale, #humpback, #fjord, #akureyri, #rib, #whalewatch, #wildlife, #nature, #windstar
I quickly zoomed my lens from 70 to 24mm to capture more of the whale and the fjord. The white dorsal fin represents one third the length of the body, to give you an idea of the whale’s length.
#whale, #humpback, #jackson, #fjord, #iceland, #rib, #akureyri, #wildlife, #windstar
When Jackson the humpback whale made a deep dive, our pilot headed back to shore.

More Chihuly at NYBG

It’s true: Art helps you to see the world in a fresh new way. First we are attracted to Art for its shape, its color, its sound, its fascination value or its beauty.

#chihuly, #NYBG, #newyork, #botanical, #glass, #art, #sculpture, #nature, #blue
Chihuly’s blue globe radiates white beams, at the New York Botanical Garden.

Next, we relate it to what we know. Third, we begin to see new relationships.

#palm, #tropical, #rockgarden, #inspiration, #NYBG, #newyork, #botanical, #botanicalgarden, #sony
Was Chihuly inspired by the sun, or perhaps by palm trees like these?

 

Uncommon colors for May

Photographing flowers at the New York Botanical Garden with my daughter Erin, I was treated to eye dazzling displays of pink and green, especially in the peony garden. But the rock garden offered some different visual treats. One of them was this delicious juxtaposition of velvety crimson and a frosty green. I loved the way the frosty green ferns framed the spherical peony blossom.

#newyork, #botanical, #peony, #red, #redandgreen, #may, #uncommon, #colors, #shapes, #bronx, #nybotanical, #garden, #sony
A refreshing combination of frosty green ferns frame a deep red peony at the New York Botanical Garden.

 

What Lies Ahead

On a morning walk in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you never know what lies ahead. One time, a Florida Panther jumped onto this stretch of boardwalk. Other days a Burmese python was sighted just below in the swamp. Most likely, you will see a dozen or more species of birds and some alligators. I was not disappointed as I entered the cypress forest.

#corkscrew, #swamp, #santuary, #naples, #florida, #nature, #birdwatching, #vertical, #sony
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is an active nature preserve near Naples, FL.