My eclipse day in Oregon

About a year ago, I started to get pretty excited about the 2017 eclipse. My own home was just inside the path of totality, and I was less…

My eclipse day in Oregon
waiting for the peak
time series of 30min before the peak, to about 15min after, taken with my Canon 5DmkII with a 70–200mm lens and 9-stop solar filter

About a year ago, I started to get pretty excited about the 2017 eclipse. My own home was just inside the path of totality, and I was less than 40 miles from the path’s center. I invited friends from afar to come stay at my house. In the last few weeks, four of them stepped up to make the trip to see it at my house.

It was tough to determine if we should stay put or drive 30–60 minutes south to get another ~30 seconds of totality. Traffic worries were rampant, as everyone in Oregon was bracing for total stoppage and we were told to stock up on food and water as if in an emergency. Ultimately, we decided to stay put and stay comfortable, to avoid problems with traffic and travel.

We lucked out with a cloudless morning. And right around the beginning of the eclipse at 9am, we all set up on the back deck. I started a time-lapse with an iPad to get a sense of what the backyard looked like going from daylight to darkness and back (in the end, it was way quicker than I thought it’d be).

I setup my digital SLR and trained it on the sun. I set the back screen as the viewfinder and it was a great (and safe) way to monitor the eclipse progress all morning. I took a photo every 5 minutes or so to get the series of images at the top of this post.

A perfect way to monitor the progress

As we closed in on 10:18AM, it went almost completely dark, and we all started freaking out a bit over how amazing it was. It was remarkable to take off your eclipse glasses and see everything so sharply.

In the middle of that peak, I stopped to look up and witness with my own eyes the image I’ve seen in so many photos but never experienced: A black circle, surrounded by white almost flame-like light. It was remarkable, unforgettable, and experiencing it with the naked eye was even better than the photos suggested.

Here’s a video from that moment, and you can hear everyone in the backyard flipping out.

After a moment, I realized I still needed to take an eclipse shot, so I scrambled a bit and took off my sun filter, but couldn’t get the camera settings back to normal in the few seconds before it ended.

As the light and shadows quickly returned, I realized despite missing the photo, the moment still made everything worth it. All the anticipation, planning, and travel from friends. All the cameras and filters and tripods and batteries and practice.

Everything was worth it for a moment that reminded me how very small I was in the vast universe. Celestial bodies floating around thousands and millions of miles away were coincidentally overlapping before my eyes and creating a once-in-many-years event. I barely remember the 1979 partial eclipse I saw in Southern California, but seeing the real deal in 2017 was extraordinary.

For anyone wondering about the 2019 eclipse in South America or the 2024 eclipse coming to North America, I offer these tips after today’s experience:

  1. I would urge anyone traveling for an eclipse or ready to experience their first, to ALWAYS GO FOR MORE TOTALITY. In hindsight, I should have taken everyone to a friend’s property 30 miles south for another 30 seconds of time in the darkness.
  2. I have a new respect for people that travel all over the world to witness an eclipse every few years. It was a remarkable event and I would love to experience it more than once every 40 years.
  3. After fumbling with my camera at the precise moment, if I had to do it all over again, I’d keep the same setup, but remember to put my camera from manual mode set to snapping incremental shots into automatic mode for the totality photo. Or I’d setup a second camera just for the totality without a dark lens filter.
  4. I took a time-lapse of my backyard for 90 minutes overlapping with the eclipse, hoping to see a gradual loss of light, but it was way more sudden, happening just in the last five minutes or so. Next time I’d only time-lapse plus or minus a few minutes and take a shot every second to get a smoother transition.
  5. An eclipse was totally worth the hype and the anticipation. It was a remarkable event that photos and video can’t do justice. You have to experience first-hand the sun blotting out in the morning to know how incredibly strange it is. The only thing I remember from the 1979 eclipse as a little kid was how weird that day felt. In 2017, with a science degree and decades of living behind me, the whole day was a blast and I’ll never forget the experience.