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On May 20, 2012 three celestial orbs of varying size,density and composition aligned briefly to create a spectacular vision of a ring of fire in the sky commonly referred to as an “Annular Eclipse” this is where the moon is too small to completely cover the Sun and instead leaves a ring of light visible around the dark silhouette of the moon. These are rare enough that thousands of people traveled great distances just to see the brief event (~4minutes long at it’s maximum coverage for this particular eclipse.)
Unfortunately I was not one of those people!
I wanted to be believe me, the best views were only a 6 hour drive away in the red rock splendor of southern Utah. However the eclipse wouldn’t end until after 8 pm, add another 6 hour drive to that and it being a school night and my wife having to work in the morning, it just wasn’t going to happen. So the other option was to remain in Salt Lake, view the partial eclipse (89% coverage) and not see a ring but instead a thin crescent, and then be back home in time for some ice cream before bedtime… call it a consolation prize.
We headed to what I was hoping would be a scenic backdrop to the 2 hour long event and would hopefully give me a place to make a nice composite sequence of the eclipse. Donner Trail Park is located above Hogle Zoo on the east bench of Salt Lake City at the mouth of Emigration Canyon the historic place where Mormon Pioneers (including ancestors of mine) first entered the Salt Lake Valley after their grueling westward trek from Nauvoo, Illinois to escape persecution and bias in 1847.
Here’s the view we had from our hill top perch at the park just before the eclipse began.
Yeah those clouds are real! And they were moving slowly from right to left the whole time!! So much for a grand view huh? Well you’d be surprised what you can see with a telescope and even with a 70-300mm lens with solar filters attached, the Sun is pretty darn bright and can be seen even through some clouds, although it does soften the view and lower the contrast it’s still visible (as long as the clouds aren’t too thick) So I started clicking away with the D7000 on a tripod with the 70-300mm lens + solar filter, I had wanted to get some closer views through my ETX-90EC telescope but I was having a hard time getting it balanced for the camera so instead I decided to use it for visual observing and let the growing crowd at the park use it for better views than their little pinhole projectors would give them. I also let them use some of my eclipse glasses for some great (safe) naked eye views
We caught a break as the best seeing of the entire eclipse occurred during the time of maximum coverage. It was fun to see everyone’s reaction as the light levels dropped noticeably to that of sunset although we still had one hour before actual sunset. We also started playing with the shadows showing that any “pinhole” made by leaves or fingers laced together would project an image of the eclipsed Sun.
You can clearly see that the moon’s diameter isn’t large enough to cover the entire Sun, at this point some people left as the “best part’ was over but we still had one hour of the eclipse in reverse to go. I stuck around to shoot more and then the clouds thickened up again.
Here’s a composite I made of the entire eclipse sequence as seen through the 70-300mm. as I mentioned before the filter gives a blueish tint, however you’ll notice that the last image is orange(ish), this was a natural tint achieved as the setting Sun approached the horizon, even the solar filter couldn’t alter “Golden Hour” light!
My favorite single image of the eclipse is that last orange shot I had during a final lucky thinning of the clouds.
Yeah the clouds were a pain for the eclipse but made for a great sunset!
And now a shot I thought I was never going to get due to all those clouds, but after a few dozen tries in photoshop and a small “Ah Ha!” moment of inspiration/revelation about processing techniques I was able to get this:
I made that image using two 11 exposure HDR’s of the pre eclipse and sunset scenes blended together and overlayed that composite with 16 individual eclipse shots from the 70-300mm.
Here’s the view we left at the park as we headed home thrilled to have been able to witness such an amazing scene and demonstration of universal wonder.
Thanks again for coming along for the ride, I hope you enjoyed it!