Updated: Mar 9
The Total Solar Eclipse. For many a dream, once in a lifetime experience, for some others obsession!
I saw my first Total Eclipse in summer 1999 in Hungary. I can still remember the silence when the sky turned dark, the birds stopped chirping, and the time stopped for a moment. The wind picked up, and I had goosebumps - not sure if it was the sudden cold or the euphoria when
I took off my eclipse glasses and saw the black sun!
Eighteen years later, I was happy to share this moment with my partner Steve! The Great American Eclipse in August 2017 was an exceptional occurrence! The logistics was a bit of a challenge, so we decided to camp on the Green Acres Campground with many others. The campsite was significantly cheaper than to stay in a hotel, and we liked the idea of staying outdoors.
The Great American Eclipse in August 2017
I decided to take a sequence of the eclipse with a telephoto lens and set up the other camera with a wide-angle lens to capture a real-time video. Although it all sounds that I was in charge and prepared - it turns out I wasn't! I carefully preset my camera for the various stages of the eclipse and started to shoot the sun from the first contact. I even set my alarm for the exact beginning of the totality - which was the time to take off the filter and let the magic happen.
The moment I had to adjust the lens for the sun's movement, my hands started to shake, and
I got my lens out of focus! A minute of panic and despair during the totality! I managed to fix it at the end, but this only shows that nothing can prepare you for this incredible phenomenon!
I was extremely pleased to capture the entire two and a half minutes of totality on a 4K video!
Bryce from TDC made a great video about this incredible experience, including my footage! Check it out on YouTube (thank You Bryce!:).
It was Steve's first eclipse, and he was thrilled. We made a decision, that would like to see the next one in 2019! When looking at the path of totality, Elqui Valley in Chile seemed to be a perfect location for the observation.
Glamping under the stars
After some internet search, we found an offer for a short four-day Glamping! For nature lovers and outdoor addicts, this sounded like the right choice!
I knew the totality would happen low on the horizon, which allowed me to compose a landscape shot, including the typical valley flora in the foreground. I found the perfect cactus the day before the Eclipse, and I tried to align it with the sun and visualize the final image.
Don't forget, when you take a shot with a wide-angle lens (also smartphone and GoPro), the sun will appear very small.
No words can describe the moment when the day turns into night during the totality. There was that apocalyptic feeling in the air. Witnessing the 2019 July 2nd Total Solar Eclipse in Chile's mystical Elqui Valley was unforgettable!
I set up two cameras and a GoPro this time. One camera with a telephoto and another with a wide-angle lens. The total eclipse is mind-blowing and capturing it can be tricky! I taped down the focus ring on my lens, learning from my previous mistake, and I was trying to stay sane!
Safety is critical when observing the sun, especially during the partial eclipse period! I ordered a few eclipse glasses online before my trip, but they were selling them everywhere! I personalised my eclipse glasses (in both places - in the US & Chile) with Cat stickers and turned them into "Catclipse glasses" and kept them as souvenirs.
If you are planning to shoot with a telephoto lens, your gear will need "eclipse glasses", too. It can be a special solar filter or a Baader sun filter foil, which you can use to make a filter. If you don't own a special solar filter, you can use a very strong ND filter, reducing the light by approximately 16 - 24 stops. You can also stack two ND filters together (e.g. 10 EV + 6 EV) and you will get the desired result. WARNING: If using an ND filter (or stack of ND filters) for solar photography, do NOT use an optical viewfinder. Specialized solar imaging and viewing filters not only filter visible light, but harmful UV and IR radiation as well. ND filters DO NOT provide this protection. Use them only with electronic viewfinders and/or Live View mode. Wide-angle lenses, GoPros, smartphone cameras usually don't need this filter - but please check it with a gear specialist. You still need to wear eclipse glasses when looking into the sun!
Eclipse - themed products in the area included Pisco, Beer and Ice cream! Not a bad way to celebrate this incredible event!
In 2015, the entire Elqui Valley was declared the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and it is a real paradise for stargazers! Below is a panorama of the Milky Way I took the last night of our trip around 3 am, still filled with overwhelming emotions and a bit tired of Pisco Sour sampling.
The next Total Solar Eclipse will take place on Monday, December 14th 2020, and will be visible in the sky over parts of Argentina and Chile.