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The Big Day - Final Thoughts

August 11, 2017

Written by Dave Henry and Ken Sklute

By now, you’ve been planning for this day for months. You’ve selected your camera and lens. You’ve bought a solar filter, you’ve read and re-read all the articles and you’re ready. At least you think you’re ready.

Captivating the Imagination

The August 2017 eclipse will captivate the imagination of hundreds of millions of people from Greenland to Central America.

The path of totality averages about 65 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. In this path everyone will see a total eclipse. Everyone north and south of this narrow path will see a partial eclipse. That’s a lot of people.

230 million people live within an eight-hour drive of totality and from where you’re planning to watch it, it may seem as though all 230 million people are standing next to you.

It will be crowded to be sure because the week before the eclipse, all of the television weather forecasters will be focusing on the best possible viewing spots. Everyone will be headed to those spots. Just accept it and be prepared. Don’t rely on roadside services. Bring everything you’ll need with you.

Watch the weather continually and be prepared for a change of venue in the days before the eclipse. Just be flexible.

A Few Things to Pack

A short list of helpful items to bring with you:

• Sunscreen
• Flashlight
• Medicine
• Insect repellent
• Tools for quick repairs
• Solar viewing glasses
• Extra batteries
• Hoodman (or similar) focusing loupe
• White bath towels to wrap your camera gear
• Hat
• Smartphone with eclipse and weather apps
• Plenty of memory cards
• Food and snacks
• Plenty of water
• Various tape
• Extra camera batteries
• Voice recorder

Checking your Equipment

If you’re using new equipment, try it out in the weeks before the eclipse. You don’t want any surprises just before the eclipse.

Having a back-up camera is always a good idea.

Re-read our articles on exposure and totality and re-check all your settings. If your camera has custom settings (“C1,” “C2,” etc. on your Mode Dial), be sure to re-read the article on exposure. This will make the transition between partial phases and totality faster and smoother.

Bring lots of extra batteries for everything because there probably won’t be much of anything left on the shelves on eclipse day. The same goes for memory cards. Try to be self-sufficient. Some automobile jumper batteries have AC, USB and 12-volt power options and will supply power to your devices for hours.

If you’re using an equatorial tripod mount such as Star Adventurer, the AA size batteries will last 24 hours. You can always use a USB power bank as a backup (it also can be used to power your smartphone should its battery need charging during the eclipse too).

Don’t make this a solely photographic event. It’s a majestic moment. Try to absorb the environment and natural state around you.

Mental Preparation

You’ve technically prepared for the coverage of the eclipse, but what about the mental part of the eclipse?

As we have mentioned before, a respected astronomer once said that she never saw an eclipse because her attention was always concentrated on operating research equipment.

Unfortunately, that’s the case with many devoted solar eclipse watchers.

There’s an entire industry devoted to getting people to remote locations around the world to view the most spectacular event that the cosmos offers to earth — a total eclipse of the sun.

When the eclipse is over, many people won’t have many memories of the eclipse or the sensations happening all around them during totality because their head is buried in the equipment.

It seems improbable that photographers, photographing the eclipse for the first time in August 2017, will remember anything related to the feel of the eclipse. For most of us, we’ll remember f-stops, shutter speeds, removing the solar filter at the moment of maximum totality (only to accidently drop it).

There’s a lot more to an eclipse than the actual eclipse.

Seasoned eclipse watchers take a more laid-back approach (now that they’ve successfully photographed several of them) and make it a point to notice the horizon around them.

As totality approaches, the temperature noticeably drops. Sometimes as much as 10º Fahrenheit.

Birds and wildlife begin heading back to their nests or burrows assuming that night is coming. Crickets begin chirping and the light gets fainter and fainter.

Many people watch and photograph the ground around them as the rippling light waves approach.

A total eclipse is as much a sensory experience as it is an optical one.

Many experienced eclipse observers bring along a voice recorder to record their observations.

You may even consider setting up a video camera to record your movements and observations. It is worth considering because it won’t happen again for a long time.

Many senior observers bring their children and grandchildren with them so that they can begin a family tradition of passing along the thrill of an eclipse.

Grandkids will relate to their children how they remember watching an eclipse with their grandparents. The next total eclipse will clip part of the United States in 2024, but we’ll have to wait until 2045 to have a total eclipse in the United States that crosses the entire continent like the one in August. So, there’s a lot of memories to create and pass on.

As you begin to pack for the trip to your viewing place, remember to bring along that audio or video recorder to capture in real-time your thoughts and observations, and don’t forget your journal.

Once the eclipse is over, take a few moments to reflect on what just happened and write down your observations and feelings. For many, an eclipse is a life changing moment because you realize that humans are a tiny grain of sand on a vast beach of life and eternity.

The delicate ballet being danced between the moon and sun is bigger than we are and it’s been happening for millions of years.

We appreciate being able to share, through all our articles and videos, what it takes to plan and execute the coverage of a total eclipse of the sun.

Join us again after the eclipse for our final two articles on Dave and Ken’s eclipse experiences.

Have a safe and wonderful eclipse.


Click here for more information on photographing the solar eclipse!

SAFETY FIRST: Never look at the sun without accredited and approved solar filtration over your eyes. Permanent, irreversible eye damage and/or blindness can result in seconds. Never point your camera into the sun without an approved solar filter over your camera lens(es). Not using a solar filter at eclipse magnifications will ruin your camera in seconds. Never improvise, modify or use general photography neutral density filters.

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