Solar Eclipse
Background

Photography is one of my favorite relaxing pastimes, and when I got the opportunity to view a solar eclipse for the first time in Jefferson City during August of 2018, I made sure that I was prepared with both my phone and SLR cameras to capture the event. I drove down to Jefferson City, Missouri early in the morning with college friends on August 21, all-the-while tracking the weather to make sure that the sky would be clear when we arrived. Luckily, we got a full view of the eclipse from our spot on the grass near the Capitol building at the time of totality. We had to change our destination last-minute in order to avoid the completely overcast sky which ended up being the right choice, since there were barely any clouds in Jefferson City.

The period of totality lasted a bit longer than two minutes where we stood, and I was able to capture hundreds of photos at different exposures to try to best capture the detail of the corona and Bailey’s Beads. I tried to set up my phone camera as well to contain the capitol building for a time-lapse of the whole event. I do wish, however, that I had set up the shot to include the eclipse itself and not just the change in brightness affecting the city. That being said, I still quite enjoy looking back on my time-lapse and watching the world quickly fade to darkness and brighten again within the span of a few seconds. It’s strange to see stars so vividly midday, but that was one of the more surprising side-effects of the eclipse. I plan to see many more eclipses in the future as there is really nothing quite like it.

Detailed Description

I discovered too late that there were many photography-worthy eclipse-related phenomena that I hadn’t even noticed or tried to replicate during the August 2018 solar eclipse. In the following days after the eclipse occurred, many online channels and pages that I follow posted photos and videos of such events, so I looked further into the many clever and artistic things that can be done photographically with the unique circumstances provided by an eclipse.

The main thing that I missed out on was photographing the defocused light rays landing in shadows, which end up being shaped like rings because of small holes between objects like leaves effectively acting as pinhole lenses. This effect is very cool to capture, especially very close to totality, but can also be seen as crescents instead of rings at any other point in the eclipse, which is interesting in its own way. I attempted to capture the Bailey’s Beads phenomenon, but only barely captured the correct moment, and I hope to get a better shot of them during the next eclipse that I witness.

While I did have my phone set up to record time lapse video, I was in a hurry setting It up, and wasn’t able to find a way to film both the eclipse itself and the changes in the landscape. As such all I was able to film was the change in brightness over the Capitol building which, while very cool, fell short of what I had hoped for. The eclipse occurred very high in the sky which made it extremely difficult to get any other objects in the shot besides the sun, so I skipped it all together. I would love to try during the next eclipse to capture the same moment but have both the landscape and the sun/moon in the shot, possibly using a wide-angle lens to fit everything in.

The shots that I took of the corona ended up capturing its shape well, but when compared to some of the images that I found online, the level of detail captured by my images fell far short of what was possible. I believe that I could capture similar images if I come to own a higher zoom lens and if I’m a little bit more careful about how I set my focus. The main problem that I encountered with focus this time around was that I set it once at the beginning, thinking that it was properly set for the sun and moon’s distance, and left it there for every subsequent image. After looking back at my photos, I realized that they could have been far clearer allowing them to capture more of the corona detail, which was my primary goal during this eclipse.

I found a long-shutter image taken over the period of an entire day with a 360-degree camera which captured the entire motion path of the sun including the eclipse moment. I would love to replicate this photograph but would need a camera capable of taking 360-degree images. The final photo type that I encountered and wish that I had the opportunity to take myself is one in which the eclipse takes place behind a hill or cliff and acts as a background to people in the frame, casting sharp silhouettes of the subjects.

There are quite a few photographs online taken slightly before totality that I know that I could replicate given the proper setup. During the 2018 eclipse I was nowhere near cliffs or hills which made a shot like this impossible to take, but I desire to plan a trip in the future to a location that will give me the view required to capture this style of photo. In the coming years I’ll be researching the types of filters and lenses that I will need to capture the immense detail in an eclipse’s corona so that I can properly prepare to photograph the next eclipse that I encounter.

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