The Great American Solar Eclipse

September 01, 2017  •  15 Comments

Playing with my Iphone - using my eclipse glasses as the solar filter.

On Saturday, Crystal and I embarked on our 2017 Solar Eclipse trip to Tennessee. We met our good friends, Chris and Susan Smith, who'd long ago reserved a campsite at Montgomery Bell State Park near Nashville and invited us to join them there. Knowing that we'd have only about 2 1/2 minutes of total eclipse, I had been torn about spending too much of that precious time fiddling with my camera trying to get my "best shot" (that would likely look like dozens of others shown on the Internet), and ultimately decided to spend the vast majority of those few awesome minutes taking in the whole experience with Crystal and our friends. I intentionally left behind my larger telephoto lenses so I couldn't be tempted "to get too serious".

Susan and Chris Smith, singing Let the Mystery Be at our campsite.

On Monday morning after a leisurely camp breakfast, we headed north to "the line" of peak totality.  We chose the small town of Pleasant View, in part because of the apt name.  The traffic jams were nonexistent on the lovely small country roads through the rolling hills and woods of Tennessee.  The large community park in Pleasant View was prepared for a crowd, including food trucks and music.  Having arrived plenty early, we opted for an area in the far back corner, away from the hub-bub, where we could set up our shade shelter directly by the truck.  Chris and Susan had been camping cross-country for two months, and so were prepared with tarps, bamboo, stakes, and line for us to rig up a nice patch of shade on this blistering clear-sky day.

Eclipse PartyEclipse Party

Pleasant View Community Park, Tennessee

Pinhole Viewer (and partial eclipse through a grommet hole in the shade-tarp)


I had studied online sources for information about shooting the eclipse, but still felt uncertain about settings and strategy. I had my camera pre-focused and the focus ring taped securely. I took my best guess at an exposure setting and then set the camera to auto-bracket a wide range of under- and over-exposures  for a total of 7 shots.  I was shooting at 105 mm (not much power) so it was quick and easy to get the sun in the frame as totality approached.  The moment it arrived, all I needed to do was release the shutter one time and I'd be done with photography.  That way, I could fully take in the awe of the moment.  The moment arrived... click...There was the black sun, the glowing corona, the red sparkly threads along parts of the rim, the few stars as the light dimmed to twilight, the sudden coolness (dramatic on this hot day), the collective gasp, and then cheer of the crowd. A thrill shot through me, a fleeting feeling of some ancient connection to this phenomenon, and a connection with the millions of other Americans looking up in awe today. While I had a clear understanding of the physics of the eclipse, and had seen simulations and films from every imaginable angle, there was still a momentary primitive sense of fear and mystery that bubbled up.  

Only after the moon's shadow continued its eastern journey and sunlight filled the field again did I venture a peek at what my camera had done. My widely bracketed shots went from too dark to all white frames, and there, near the darker end, was this momentary capture of Totality. It's just a souvenir shot showing only part of our eclipse experience, but I'm so pleased to have it.  

You can see there is another star (beside our sun) in the frame as well.  That feels like the cherry-on-top, for I'd imagined a starry sky during Totality.  That star is Regulus (aka Alpha Leo), never seen from here at this time of year EXCEPT during a solar eclipse.

The sun and moon can make great photo subjects, even un-eclipsed.  Taking artistic liberty, I've thrown in a few from my portfolio that might never otherwise find their way into the blog. 

Eclipse... well, not quite. A nearly new moon rising in the east just ahead of sunrise over St Vincent Island and the Gulf of Mexico.

Cormorant Sunrise IICormorant Sunrise II

Cormorant Sunrise

Rising Sun & Morning MistRising Sun & Morning Mist

Eclipsed by Clouds

A closer crop of my solar eclipse photo, in black & white.

Experiencing the total eclipse was truly amazing, and exceeded our expectations.  For those who didn't, there's another one crossing our continent in just 7 years! Start planning now.

  Thanks for joining in on our Great American Eclipse journey. I appreciate your comments here at my blog, and please share this link freely with your friends and family and social media sites.


Mack McClellion(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing, David. Even though I tried, I really didn't get to have much of an experience with the eclipse. I haven't seen Chris in years. Nice to see your smiling faces having some fun together in the great outdoors.
I love your blogs so much. We were in Iowa during the eclipse, and it was pouring down rain. Your photos and your site are just wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
John Spohrer(non-registered)
Great stuff, David!
Christy Gerrits(non-registered)
Great photo, David. We also had a great experience with the eclipse standing on a hill in southeast Torrington with my mother's family. Also had a photographer along, Bill Saltzman. I put the solar paper on our spotting scope and used my digiscoping capabilities and got some good shots that way. Way fun!
Jay and Susan(non-registered)
Great little story. We had a super experience too down in South Carolina with our friends Paul and Shannon though our viewing site was not as nice as yours!
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