Like many thousands of others, I decided to make the trek to a spot where I could see the total eclipse on Monday. My brave and patient wife Sandee agreed to join me on this adventure and I arranged to spend the weekend with my Aunt Kris in Eugene, Oregon – just 30 miles from the zone of totality. I kept a close eye on the traffic, weather (clear) and smoke from the nearby forest fires (variable) and decided that Corvallis was the place to go Monday morning. This allowed us to stay off of the interstate in case it became clogged with cars and would give us plenty of clear areas to view the sky.
We left Eugene at 6am, a full three hours before the eclipse would begin, to help avoid the forecast “carmageddon”. As it turned out, traffic was no problem and we were parked in Corvallis and looking for coffee by 7:15. The local Starbucks did have long lines for both coffee and restrooms, but both were manageable and now we were looking for a place to set up.
We walked across a bridge over the Willamette River heading for the Orleans Natural Area. I decided this would work and we got ready for the action. I used my Canon 5DSR camera with a 400mm lens and 2x extender, giving me 800mm of reach on a 50 megapixel image. Sandee had some solar binoculars that worked really well for viewing the progress. We eventually moved a little further back than shown below, allowing me to use the trees as a wind break to help keep my camera still in the breeze.
I used a solar filter to capture the partial stages (shown at the top of this post) and then removed it just as the eclipse went total. We heard lot’s of cheers and yelling from the golf course across the street as the sky went dark, and of course someone started playing some Pink Floyd. It really was an amazing experience. During the partial phases, the sky darkened in a way that was both perceptible and difficult to pin down. At the moment of totality, though, it got truly dark and the black hole in the sky fringed with a white corona was clearly visible. I just had to take a selfie…
I had done plenty of research for photographing eclipses and had pre-set my camera to take three 5-shot brackets ranging from 1/4000s to 2s very quickly. My hope was this would allow me to get both bright structures like flares and dimmer things like the fainter corona and maybe even some earthshine (reflected light from the earth making detail visible on the moon). Things worked out great and I took sequences at second contact (when totality first begins), the middle of totality, and at third contact (when totality ends).
One of the first things I noticed was that I caught some solar prominences! The image below taken at second contact shows them fairly clearly:
It took some time to figure out how to blend the multiple exposures of each image. I ended up loading the frames I wanted as layers in Photoshop, manually aligning them (I couldn’t find any software that liked dealing with the fact that everything in the frame was moving), and then manually blending them. Here are the results during totality:
We headed for the car after totality ended, hoping to stay ahead of the crowds during our drive to the Bay Area. I did have to stop on the bridge, though, and get a shot of the crescent suns shining through the trees: