Solar Eclipse North Carolina 2017

The 2017 solar eclipse witnessed in North Carolina was one of the most amazing things i have ever seen. I have to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about seeing a solar eclipse and had no idea what an experience it would be. I did a little research about it the night before and saw a few places on the map where I thought might be a good place to view this skeptical spectacle.  I threw some gear in a bag, fueled up with coffee and gas and headed down the road with a friend Cinnamon, for a 2 hr drive to the spot we had picked. Well, it was about 2 miles into the trip when we hit standstill traffic in all directions. It was like there was a zombie apocalypse at large. I had an axe in the back and a blade in my pocket so I was ready for that! (Rule #2: Double Tap of course!) What I wasn’t prepared for was all of the people. It turns out that this was quite an event and people had been planning for this and travelling from far away to see it. Who knew!? Anyway, after 30 backroads and 4 hrs later we arrived to the “secluded” spot only to find nascar size crowds in every direction. “Shit!” I exclaimed. “Well lets just head down this road and see where it goes.” Cinnamon says. 60mph down a single lane logging road we hurrled. Sliding to a stop next to a river and a large opening to the sky between jutting mountains. We hopped out and had found our spot right when the moon had started to slide in front of our sun. Donning our special glasses we gazed into the sky. “Holy shit its happening!” “The solar eclipse! Its happening!” we exclaimed! I ran to the back of the 4Runner and started setting up the gear. I had no idea what I was going to do yet. I had packed a Sony A7RII, Sony A6500 and A Fuji XT-1 all with various lenses. I didn’t have any solar filters at all but I always have a lot of ND filters on hand. I decided that I would run video on the Sony A6500 with a 200mm strapped on it with a variable ND filter behind the lens. (less flare maybe) Then I set up the A7RII for a time lapse with the 55mm and a 10 stop ND filter on the front.  After I had them running I grabbed my Fuji for some ” hand held artistic expressionism” shots. I only had a couple of my old  16mm film lenses that I had adapted to the fuji with me. These lenses create images  in a circular fashion. (as all lenses do but these do not make a circle big enough to expose the whole sensor thus leaving you with a circular image. As some of you know I am into the circular image in all of my cameras. I didn’t have any kind of dedicated ND for this set up as the lenses are about a nickles width across. So thinking quickly I had a piece of cardboard tube that happened to be almost 77mm wide. So I taped a 10 stop to the end of it and just held it in front of the camera. This proved to be the smartest accident I made that day! Besides finding a little bottle of bourbon in the back of my 4runner! Anyway, with this handheld filter I could easily make an exposure of the eclipse and then move it out of the way to make a double exposure of the landscape.The suns exposure was 1/4000sec and the landscapes exposure was 1/500sec at 100iso. So I had to remember to dial that back every time I took of the ND. I tried a few test shots to get the hang of it and I was ready for the show. Clouds started to roll in while we were getting close. I was worried that they would block the view but to my happy surprise they further enhanced the scene by epic proportions. Once the sun was in totality my tested exposures were off by a LOT! oops. Hell, I had never seen or researched a solar eclipse. I had no idea it would get THAT dark! So now my exposures were like 1/125sec for the sun and 1/8 for the landscape at 1250iso!! I started framing the shot below when it hit me how incredible this moment was. It looked like the earth was the backdrop to the solar eclipse!  (thank you round lens!) I was looking at something that couldn’t be expressed in words. The technical jargon above, the gear, the image, the axe, the zombies mean nothing. It felt like the earth stood still for that 2 minutes. For 2 minutes the sun went dark with little bits escaping from around the moon. I could only make 2 images during  that 2 minutes as I was paralyzed with wonder. Wonder like a kid. I felt as if I was reborn. It was a weird intoxicating feeling. There are really no words to describe it. The ground hornets were returning to their home across the road from us in swarms. I saw a butterfly flying backwards. (maybe that was the bourbon). The shadows were strange little moon donuts, the light was just a weird color and lux.

At any rate, it was an incredible experience. One I will never forget and one that somehow changed me. I am already thinking about South America in 2019 for their solar eclipse! We talked on the way home about the idea that maybe it had reset our lives and that maybe we get to start with a clean slate when we wake up in the morning. Maybe… Maybe.

The footage from the video and time lapse I shot melted my eyes and I can not wait to share it. Stay tuned…

solar eclipse picture