Since many of us weren’t able to make the trek to a location in the “path of totality” for this solar eclipse in the US this year, many of us drooled over social media to see our friends and colleagues who were able to go prepare and shoot it live. Now that they’ve returned and are culling through Terabytes of visual data, several of them have agreed to share a bit about their experience; from planning their trips to the gear they used – and of course, their beautiful (and often creative) results!
Contributors: Seán Duggan, Colin Smith, Russell Brown, Chris Knight, Eric Cheng, Romeo Durscher, Mark Johnson, Abbe Lyle, Brad Kremer, Kenji Sugahara, Thomas Testi and Andrew Behringer
Eclipse Over the Fossil Beds
I had been pondering traveling to the path of totality for the eclipse, but it was when my teen-age daughter Fiona expressed a strong interest in seeing it that the decision was made. Going into this, I knew that the most important thing was to simply be able to se the eclipse with her, but as a photographer, I was also thinking of how to create an image of this special event.
I’ve photographed eclipses, both lunar and solar, before and for me, such images are as much about the place where I experienced the eclipse, as they are about what’s happening up in the sky. With this in mind, I never intended to go for a close-up shot of the sun; I knew there would be plenty of excellent photos showing that. I wanted a wide-angle view to show the dance of the land and sky.
My original photo idea involved taking a shot with the majestic peak of Mt Jefferson in the distance, and the moment of totality occurring directly over it. Earlier in the summer I made a scouting trip to that area and identified a good vantage point to shoot from, with the peak about 8 miles away as seen in the image below.
But three weeks before the eclipse I learned of a 6,500 acre wildfire that was burning right between my planned camera position and Jefferson peak, and only 3 miles from where we would have been. The fire would only get larger, and all access to the area was cut off, so it was time for a plan B!
Eventually I settled on the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in eastern central Oregon. I used Google Earth to virtually scout the area, and the Photo Pills app on my iPhone to identify a vantage point that would allow me to create a photo of the eclipse occurring above the rocky prominence of Sheep Rock.
By this time there were no more motel vacancies in the area, so I booked a room at a motel in Winnemucca, Nevada, 5.5 hours away. We got there on Sunday afternoon, tried to grab some sleep in the evening hours and then left at 1am to drive through the night to our viewing spot.
We arrived at 6:30am and I was pleasantly surprised to find smaller crowds than I expected. There were plenty of people gathered at the visitor center up the road, but only a few down by the river. We found a somewhat secluded spot on a wide ledge just above the river.
Originally I’d intended to be a bit farther downstream where the camera angle would have had totality occurring directly above the rock, but I liked the still backwater part of the river that created a nice reflection of the rock, so we stayed there.
I set up my older Canon 5D with a 28-135mm set to 28mm to record a time lapse, taking a shot every 5 seconds. I’d done something similar for a 98% solar eclipse in Iceland two years before and it worked quite well. Here’s a link to that video: https://vimeo.com/231175878
I also had a Canon 5D Mark II with a 16-35mm lens set to 20mm to record a wide-angle view of the scene with the aim of creating a sequence composite. This lens had a solar filter on it so I could accurately record the shape of the solar disc. Once the partial eclipse began, I used a timer to take a series of 3 bracketed shots every 2 minutes. During the slightly more than 2 minutes of totality the solar filter was removed and I made several bracketed photos of the landscape, the black disc of the moon covering the sun, and the flaring corona. When the moon slid away from totality, the solar filter was replaced and the 2-minute timed shots were resumed.
We also had a Celestron telescope with a solar filter set up for close-up views, and views of totality without the filter, solar-filtered binoculars, and, of course, our stylish eclipse shades!
After a day of sleep once we returned home, I created a sequence composite with a sepia/black & white color palette. The image I like best from that day, however, is a single shot showing the landscape at the moment of totality with the dark disc of the moon covering the sun, and the flaring corona surrounding them. It really captures the surreal and eerie quality of the light at that strange and wonderful moment.
(prints available. See http://seanduggan.com/eclipse2017)
Photographs are wonderful, and I love making them, but the best part about seeing the total solar eclipse, and especially the amazing and otherworldly experience of totality, was that I was able to share it with my 16-year old daughter. I’ll cherish the memory of that morning on the John Day River for a long time.
See more of Seán’s work here: http://seanduggan.com
BTS video from the 2017 eclipse adventure in Casper Wyoming. What an amazing time we all had; there were snakes, jokes, drones and giant cameras involved. With Russell Preston Brown Jeremy Thies Chris Knight Ken Sklute Angelique FerranteKelly Blok Anderson Canon photoshopCAFE.com
And here’s my tutorial on making an eclipse sequence in Photoshop. A lot of cool tricks here to simplify the process.
Learn more about Colin’s work at: http://photoshopcafe.com
TOTALITY – This is “ART”.
This is a creative interpretation of my totality experience in the Casper, Wyoming area. These are composite images created from photos that I captured before, during, and after totality.
For the planetary 360 shots I used two, Ricoh Theta-S cameras that were flown into the sky with a DJI Phantom Pro 4 copter.
I edited the images in Adobe Lightroom Mobile and then composited the images together with Adobe Photoshop Mix on an iPad Pro. Special thanks to Colin Smith for his close-up image of the sun and moon during totality.
Posted by Russell Preston Brown on Sunday, August 27, 2017
Learn more about Russell Brown’s creative imaging at: http://www.russellbrown.com
During the Eclipse, I was shooting with two primary Canon rigs, the 5D Mark IV attached to a 400mm II f/2.8 lens with a 2x Extender III hooked up to a Seymour Solar filter; on a ProMediaGear gimbal head on a Really Right Stuff tripod; and a Canon 5DSR on a 70-200mm lens with a 1.4x extender with a solar filter.
My plan was focused on Totality as I assumed that my Partial Eclipse pics would look like everyone else’s. I shot at 800mm for everything except for about 1 minute during Totality when I dropped down to 400mm. In retrospect, I’d didn’t capture anything additional, so next time, I’ll stay at 800mm or higher.
1 minute prior to Totality, I put my Phantom 4 Pro in the air along with (2) Ricoh Theta S 360 cameras… I sent it to about 390′ AGL and parked it rolling video on all 3 cameras.
I choose Casper Wyoming because 88% historically, the weather would be cloud free… I also decided to not book any hotels so that I could stay mobile… TOTALITY OR BUST was my thinking… Plan B was to head towards Idaho or Jackson Hole on the way.
2,504 miles traveled round-trip, several thousands images and videos shot, 150GB+ of media and many new friendships gained from the host family (Jeremy Thies, a pro photographer who lives in Casper that was also our tour guide), chance to shoot with friends Dr. Russell Preston Brown and Colin Smith, and then having the Canon Pro’s lead by Ken Sklute had a very positive impact on the results I was able to achieve during the event.
I loved during the shoot how this group came together, seemingly with and without any planning, yet a strong general sense of purpose for what we came to shoot and how we were going to shoot it… and then the troubleshooting and sharing that occurred during the shoot made it a perfect event.
Russell gets the credit for choosing Jeremy Thies as our local tour guide as he made all of the difference for where we went off-roading to capture some foreground plates to choosing the actual shooting location (that included being outside of the 5m radius of any airport, had power/potty and 50Mbps cellular data)… and then Colin Smith invited Ken Sklute with a dozen+ Canon pro’s who came to shoot with us.
Follow Chris on Instagram: http://Instagram.com/ChristopherKnight
Eric’s rigs for shooting this event:
– Insta360 Pro for 3D-360 footage
– Sony a7r II for wide angle timelapse
– Sony RX10 III on a tracking mount for 600mm 2.5-hr timelapse
– Panono hi-res 360 stills camera
– RX100 IV for wide angle video and backup audio
Location: Amity, Oregon (Brooks Winery)
Date/ Time: Totality at 10:17am, August 21, 2017.
Cameras: Sony a7r II w/Sony G Master FE 24-70mm lens @ 24mm (wide), and Sony RX10 III @ 600mm equiv (long)
Total: 2 hrs, 32 min, 10 sec
Solar eclipse in stereoscopic 3D-360!
These videos do not adequately describe how dark and cold it gets during totality (not to mention the bizarre assault on all of the other senses), but a video that turns black would not be very fun to watch.
Location: Amity, Oregon (Brooks Winery)
Date/ Time: 10:18am, August 21, 2017.
Camera: Insta360 Pro on full auto (6K / 30 fps).
This video is most effective in a VR headset! “Save” the video here in Facebook to view it in the Facebook 360 app on your Gear VR, or download the video for sideloading into your headset.
If you have a Google Cardboard or Daydream VR headset, you can watch it over on YouTube:
Check out Eric’s amazing photography at: https://echengphoto.com
Romeo Durscher, Mark Johnson and Abbe Lyle:
Location: West of Troy, Kansas – dead center of totality.
Weather Conditions: heavy clouds, some break-throughs and sunny, then rain up to 15 minutes before totality
Mavic Time Lapse:
Along the way towards the border of Kansas and Nebraska we passed several “$20 Eclipse Parking” signs. I found those equally amusing and fascinating. In my head I was trying to think these entrepreneurs to put up those signs and what would their definition of success be? Especially in an area that is not only flat, but has so many roads, and side roads. In fact, even side their own side roads. Anyone could get onto one of those many miles long and straight road and just pull over next to a giant and green field. Naturally my curiosity was peaked and I suggested somebody should keep stats on how many of these lots are around and how many people are actually going to pay 20 bucks to park there.
We had very different plans. The previous several days Mark and I had reviewed not only the potential areas of interest (to us) to witness the eclipse, but we also wanted to make sure that be on the absolutely dead-center path of totality for max sun blockage. Towards the end of the week another equation was thrown into the mix; weather. Heck, Saturday and Sunday both days in Kansas with no or almost no clouds in the sky. However, the Monday forecast did not look that good. Or good at all. So we studied satellites data, weather prediction models around which totality being right in between. Over some 7 Moons wine, we came to the conclusion that, while we did have some flexility, it would also be a gamble. See, we had some fixed parameters with:
1) find a place that allows us to leave no earlier than 8 AM Mark & Abbe’s beautiful home
2) find a place that allows us to get back to the Kansas City Airport by 5:30 PM (traffic!)
3) find a place in the dead center of totality
4) find a place that would provide a possibility of breaks in the clouds
So, we almost scientifically mapped this one out – actually, our scientific method was wine, finger food, mixed with piano and harmonica songs, ready to be sung along – and pointing at the North/Easter Kansas. Voila!
Sunday morning frenzy started early. We had lots of equipment to load up into the two off-road capable vehicles. From cameras, tripods, drones to coolers filled with drinks and snacks, to blankets to sit on the ground. And of course the Eeeclipse Dog, MacG, had to be “packed-up” too. At 2 minutes after 8 AM, almost like a Swiss clock, we started our drive up north. Within had rain drops on our windshields but it felt like we were outrunning the rain. We took Highway 7, which is a small highway, thinking that traffic would not be bad on there. And Mark was right prediction. Traffic was very light and we made great time – we even had time to stop at a Sonic Drive-In, which to me is the Flintstonean typical American burger joint; you drive up to an order which also serves as your parking spot, and minutes later a waitress in a fairly short uniform brings out the corndogs and pops. And it was not even 10 AM and Mark was already smiling big corndog…
I wished for a nice coffee place and suggested we may find one in Troy… laughter around me. Clearly my understanding of small towns in Kansas is limited as expresso machines are not found in those towns. We kept on driving, while looking at the sky above us. Over the past 90 minutes we had rain, some sunshine, but mostly just white and gray clouds. But there in the could see some blue skies. After a quick stop to look at our maps, we decided to go to a certain location and so we soon turned off the main road, onto a dirty road. After a few minutes of road, while collecting a lot of dust, we came to an intersection. Mark stopped, got out of the car and ran up to my driver side window. “What do you think?” – before I could even answer, cart drove up, with a young farmer getting off of it. Mark looked and me and said “Oh, here comes the $20 for parking line…” sure enough, this young fellow asked if we were looking observe the eclipse from. But to our surprise, he didn’t sell a parking lot. Instead, he said: “Turn down this road and take a left. You will see where – it will be a grass path; we just mowed couple of days ago. Drive all the way up on that path and you will get to the perfect spot.”, he said, while pointing down a small, unpaved road. After a quick picture with this very nice man, into our cars and drove to that turn off, made our way up a grassy hill side and found a lovely spots overlooking the land, right inbetween a big tree and a large field. There had been some “Controlled shooting” and that concerned us a little, but hey, we were so far away from anyone, who would bother us up here? We unloaded, set-up the blankets, opened the first beers (AM…) and had some chips. The mood was lovely and we enjoyed the feeling of the sun on our heads. Yes, we had sunshine and we kept watching the clouds speed by… Grace was sitting sipping her drink and eating some fruits, occasionally making a fun comment. She was clearly getting excited – despite us making fun of her. See, Grace saw an animation of what to expect eclipse and right after that, proclaimed “I don’t need to see the eclipse again!”.
MacG was enjoying the grass while we started to setup our big gear. Just right then a big brown pick-up truck drove up, and an older farmer jumped out of it, walked over and introduced owner of the land; “Fred Rohner, and I own this land!”. Fred was the most welcoming land owner I have ever come across. He was interested in our equipment and enjoyed seeing our drones. brought out one of his caps for all of us to sign! It was fantastic. We enjoyed some drinks and food together and right before it started to rain, his wife also joined us. Up until then we were some good views of the eclipsing Moon and Sun. It was such a beautiful sight!
And then the rain… Abbe and Karla were very determined and they protected the equipment from rain, toughing it out. Mark and I kept checking the satellite data and according to our estimates, would stop around 12:45 PM, a full 21 minutes before totality. That was way later than we had planned. At least what I had planned. I wanted to get time lapses from both the ground and the rain I couldn’t do that. But sure enough, it stopped raining and there were even some little breaks in the clouds. The light was already dimmer and thanks to our filters we could see the Moon and the excitement really hit us. There was a real chance we would see more of the eclipse – and we were right.
Drones were up, Abbe was taking pictures and we all watched the change of light, while counting down. Every 20 seconds Mark would call out “Romeo, how much longer until totality?” – tried to keep track of that as well. I could hear Abbe go “Wow! Wow!” and everybody else was just commenting on what a different light it now was. We were close to totality and the temperature dropped remarkably already.
From my previous eclipse I remembers how quick things are moving now. And before I knew it, it was dark. I looked at my iPad to see what my drone was seeing spectacular. There was a sunrise or sunset all around us – a full 360 degrees. It was so peaceful and quiet, no wind and much cooler. It felt so much darker than in Australia. We did get to see the Diamond Ring effect before the clouds moved in again. It was a constant hide and seek – clouds coming and going, making us see or not see this spectacle.
Everybody awe and we kept all looking around us, enjoying this incredible sight; the dark skies, the clouds, the orange and yellow light in the distance, outside of the Moon’s shadow. Grace was obviously moved as nothing ca prepare you for what it is like to experience a real totality! Those 2 minutes and 30 seconds past by so fast – and it started to become light again…
three 360 degrees Panoramas – T-4 minutes to Totality, T-2 minutes to Totality and Totality
360 degree panorama 1 minute before totality
Single shot with the Mavic during totality with fireworks
On the afternoon of July 20, 1963 we experienced a partial solar eclipse in Kansas. I was ten years old and J.F.K. was the president at the time and my class made eclipse viewers from shoe we poked a pinhole through to project the sun against a piece of white paper inside. I remember watching the disk of the moon carve a portion of the sun away and then noticing that the by the leaves overhead all created the same shape in multiples.
I was fascinated by the experience and I remember wishing so much that we could have seen a total eclipse that day. Just two months previous our last Mercury astronaut, Gordon Cooper, first television broadcast from space and I was obsessed with all things astronomical at the time. I remember finding a table of future solar eclipses and being disappointed to learn that I wait until August 21, 2017 to view a total eclipse in America. Why, I would be 64 years old! An eternity, indeed.
I wish I could have known and looked forward to the fact that when the day would finally come I would be in the sunflower state with a cosmopolitan group of dear friends hailing from Switzerland, and merry old England.
Having been born and raised here, I knew that Kansas is a checkerboard of “mile roads” that reliably cover the prairie to the extent that I was certain we could easily get to the path of totality fighting traffic or sharing the experience with a mass crowd. We loaded up the jeep and the BMW SUV with tons of snacks, beer and sodas along with the Eclipse Dog – Mac.
We convoyed up highway 7 until reaching Atchison where I felt an irresistible craving for a fresh limeade slush and a corndog from the conveniently positioned SONIC drive-in at the center looked askance at the corndog, but fed me fries as we drove so that I wouldn’t get ketchup over everything. We pushed on to Troy because we knew it was deep in the path of totality and curious to see what the natives were making of the big event.
As Romeo mentioned, we were amused to see that local entrepreneurs had placed numerous signs promoting “Eclipse Parking” for $20. Our plan, though, was to get to the true center of where the shadow would last 2 minute 38 seconds. Romeo followed me as I led the chase onto the network of dirt roads heading north towards the Nebraska border.
Serendipity and Kansas hospitality converged when we randomly met Jonathan, the hired hand for Fred Rohrer, who offered us a private hill on their land from which the surrounding territory seen for miles around. He told us he’d tell Fred we were up there and that he might want to relieve us of a beer as rent for the location. Fred, who doesn’t have e-mail, was as wonderful a could ever hope for and he regaled us with stories and observations from his time on the plains. I noticed a wild marijuana plant and asked him about it and he said, “yeah, I’d be rich if I could stuff. It’s all over the place.”
Romeo had extra NASA eclipse glasses and provided pairs to Fred and his wife and we all watched the moon make its way across the sun until a brief interruption by a rain shower! We tracked on a doppler radar app and sweated out whether or not we would be able to see the total eclipse. Amazingly, the clouds parted and we were awestruck as we experienced the majesty of Fireworks began popping on the horizon as the eerie purple shadow enveloped us.
It is difficult to put into words just how marvelous it all was. I understand now why so many people have said that it is worth whatever you have to do in order to place yourself in the corridor totality. We all felt humbled by the enormity of scale brought home by the event. The moon’s shadow was traveling 1,740 mph by the time it reached us and its size created an artificial sunrise horizon all around us. The darkness was palpable and its effect was magnificent as nature went to sleep and our little band of humans huddled together in wonder.
I couldn’t help but think back on that 10-year old standing in Ellinwood, Kansas 54 years ago with a shoe box watching the moon occlude the sun partially. So much has happened in the and as I stood with my soulmate and my dear friends on a hilltop in rural Kansas I was struck by the thought: Damn, this was worth the wait.
Learn more about Romeo, Mark & Abbe’s aerial video work at: http://visual-aerials.com/index.html
A couple of years ago I was in Iceland filming a documentary when my friend and guide Steve Lewis of The EMPIRE told me about an expedition to Svalbard where a group of skiers descended a slope with the total solar eclipse behind them. And when he showed me the footage I was dumbfounded. The coordination and execution was amazing. Coming from a snowboard filmmaking background I understood the complexity of such an event.
Fast forward a year and I see a report about a solar eclipse that will pass across the entire United States. I knew that I had to take this opportunity to not only witness the eclipse but to try and document it. Given that there are so many amazing photographers and filmers out there these days I knew that if I was to experience it through my camera I had to do something original besides just a great shot of the eclipse.
Given that this began as a personal project I really wanted to share the experience with my family. And it just so happened that the eclipse was going to take place on my son Haku’s birthday! So I went about convincing my wife that we should take our three kids to central Oregon to shoot the Eclipse. My idea was to get a shot of them silhouetted in front of the eclipse.
As I researched the path of the eclipse the first thing that stood out was the time and angle of the sun. It was to reach totality around 10:20am depending on where the location was. This meant that the sun would be in an extreme high angle in the sky at around 40 °. As a result my location options became very limited. I needed a very high and steep position in order to line up the sun, subject, and camera. And given that I wanted to shoot it with an extreme telephoto lens I also needed to be a minimal distance away from them as well.
My main tool for researching the location was Google Earth. It gave me the ability to dial in the date and time so that I could see where the sun would be on the day of the eclipse. And it also allowed me to place myself in a position so that I could see what the view would look like from certain positions. I even went to my friend house to view the locations via his Oculus Rift VR setup which if nothing else was really fun. In the end I had nearly 20 locations picked out with less than half of them being what I considered prime locations in that they met all or most of the criteria needed for the shot that I was looking for.
I knew that I wanted to film the eclipse vs just getting a photo. I own a Red Epic Dragon so I knew that I could get a great 6K clip of it. But in order to get the look that I wanted I needed and very long lens. I decided to rent a Canon 800mm lens with a 2X extender. I could decide later if I would need the 2X extender depending on the location and the distance between the camera and subject. I did many test with both setups shooting the sun and also having my kids walk out certain distances on the street to see the differences in relation to the lens and sun.
The day was nearing as we packed up or van to leave for Oregon. We travelled there on the Friday before the event so that I could scout the locations in person. As we began this process I quickly started to cross off multiple locations due to a variety of reason. Some were far too dangerous for a kid while others required some serious off road vehicles to reach. I settled in on one location that gave the most promise which was about four miles south of Painted Hills, OR. We scouted it on Saturday around 5pm and everything seemed to line up. The distance between the camera and subject was about 180 meters (good), and the angles looked good. I was feeling pretty happy about things at this point.
The next day we returned to the location at 9am to get a look at where the sun would be at the same time of day as the eclipse on Monday. To my surprise it did not line up. My heart sank. I was running out of options and time. I had one more idea. Around the corner at this same location was another point that I had marked as potentially being too dangerous based from the view of it on Google Earth. But I decided to give it a look. When I reached this new angle I saw that it did not appear to be as dangerous as I had assumed that it was. But I was viewing it from the bottom and could not say for sure. I radioed to my wife and kids and guided them to the outcropping. My wife and oldest son Teito were able to make it down to the spot without too much trouble. They told me that it seemed safe but that there wasn’t much room for multiple people. At this point it was about 10:15am. The tail end of where the sun would be during the eclipse the next day. And to my excitement it lined up! The spot would work.
The only drawback was that the distance between camera and subject would only be about 113 meters. This was far shorter than what I was hoping for. And it would mean that I had to decide between shooting 1600mm and having the subject me a bit too large for the frame or to shoot 800mm and the sun to be smaller than I would like in the frame. Given that only my older son Teito was brave enough to be I the location and that it was a bit sketchy with it being a 100’+ cliff I decided to have him sit instead of stand. This gave me the ability to still shoot at 1600mm and have him only fill half of the frame. It looked like it would work.
And so the morning came and we all got in our locations. Two of my kids at the top of the mountain in a safe viewing position, my oldest son on the edge of the cliff, my wife watching for safety, and me at the bottom setting up the camera. We had a couple hours to go to get things ready and dial it all in. One thing that I immediately noticed was that given the extreme upward angle of the camera, even when my son was sitting straight up it appeared that he was leaning forward in an awkward position. I asked him if he could lean back. In doing so it mad it look like he was sitting straight up. But this not only was a more difficult position to maintain, it was also a bit scarier as it got him closer to the edge of the cliff. In the end when I asked him what it felt like leaning back and looking down the cliff he said that he didn’t look down because it would have scared him too much. He tried to just block out the position that he was in. A true professional!
Finally the sun came into position and the moon began to make its path blocking out the sun. I started getting shots and moving the camera a few meters here and there in order to shoot it again. All in all I think I had about 10 chances before it was too high in the sky to get a good perspective with my son I the shot as well.
At this point I told my Teito and my wife to join the other two kids before it hits totality. I moved my camera to a more open position to shoot totality. And then it came… I set the camera to record and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The stress of the whole weekend and the majesty of the total eclipse swept over me. I have been all around the world and have witnessed many amazing events. But nothing has ever compared to what I felt from this.
In the end I am very happy with the result. And although I wasn’t able to be physically together with my family during the eclipse we were together by the project. It meant so much to me to be able to share this experience with them. It will be something that we will remember and cherish for a lifetime. And we all look forward to the next time that we get to experience it again.
Learn more about Brad Kremer’s video production here: www.cmi-pro.com
Located in the heart of the Willamette Valley on the west bank of the Willamette River, Independence is a small city of 9,666 10 miles southwest of Salem, the capitol of Oregon. With a quaint downtown and a small airfield, Independence is known for its fourth of July celebrations and its hops. Just a few miles away from downtown are lush hop-yards that produce award winning hops for beers worldwide.
Our company was fortunate enough to be invited by the City of Independence to document the eclipse. Located a scant 1.5 miles away from the exact center of the path of totality, the city was host to a phenomenal viewing opportunity. As we were invited by the city we had access to a very special take-off location for our drones- the roof of city hall. The city went out of its way and provided a dedicated hardline and wi-fi access point connected to a gigabit fiber line on the roof. Without their support, we would not have been able to capture our special footage.
Scouting the location was a challenge. I was returning from a trip from South Dakota and had less than 24 hours to get the scouting trip done before leaving for Washington, D.C. to advise the FAA as part of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee for remote identification and tracking of drones (as one of the only 107 operators on the committee). City personnel wanted have the scout at least 5 days before the eclipse and we were down to the deadline. We made it work. We did a test flight and taking off was a challenge as the heating and cooling units along with the metal structure of the roof induced compass errors. However, we had remembered to bring a wooden table and we were able to take off without incident.
For our equipment, we had our trusty DJI Inspire 2 and our m600. We planned to use our Inspire 2 to livestream to our audience and record in 4K Cinema DNG to get the widest dynamic range we could achieve. With our X5S camera and Olympus 12mm lens were hoping to capture some amazing landscapes and show our viewers the crowd that was assembled below.
Mounted on our m600 was a 2016 Samsung Gear 360. We chose the 2016 version as the camera captured higher resolution (7776×3888) 30MP stills than is available on the 2017 version (5472 x 2736) 15MP. Unfortunately, the 2016 Gear 360 does not have an interval timer function. With that in mind, we were able to wire a intervalometer into the Gear 360. After extensive testing we found that the only cards that we had that could sustain the write speeds to capture one frame every two seconds at maximum resolution were our SanDisk Extreme UHS speed Class 3 (U3) cards. Others we tried simply could not keep up and would skip frames.
Knowing that the craft would wobble we attached the Gear 360 to a Gimbal Guru 360. Originally, we had tested the Gear 360 with a telescoping attachment connected to the Gimbal Guru 360. The unit hung about 6 feet below the m600 but found that the assembly began oscillating. We decided to forgo the telescoping attachment and attached the Gimbal Guru directly to the Cinemilled Universal Mount for Freefly Mōvi that was attached to the m600. Though we had more of the craft in the picture, we felt that it would result in better stabilization for the 360VR time-lapse.
Eclipse day was crazy. We arrived early in the morning and getting the m600 presented an initial challenge. We thought we would have to haul the craft up the stairs and then up a ladder. However, we figured out we could simply fly the m600 to the roof to the parking lot. About two hours before the eclipse, the air above the city began filling with planes as general aviation aircraft began their pilgrimage into the small airfield. Planes flew overhead, planes landed in the river, planes were all over the place. In fact, we even saw one plane almost clip a powerline as it landed in the Willamette River. Having the knowledge from passing the Part 107 exam and having a Zastone ZT-2R+ radio proved invaluable. We knew exactly where planes were in relation to the airfield and our take off location.
As the eclipse began we noticed a dip in temperature. The light was unaffected but the air definitely got colder. As we got closer the light became flatter and the shadows started changing. About 15 minutes to totality all air traffic landings suddenly ceased though planes were flying at 3,000-4,000 feet. At 10 minutes to totality it was game time, we first put the m600 in the air. Then we started out livestream and put the Inspire 2 in the air. We had a brief hiccup as the Inspire 2 had a compass error as we flew out over the river, away from the any potential overflight of unprotected individuals. The aircraft began toilet bowling but we trained, we simply switched to ATTI and then eventually back to GPS and the error cleared.
Totality was unbelievable. We saw the shimmering on the ground, we saw the corona- and it was an awe-inspiring experience. The footage was unbelievable. To our knowledge, our flights made history. We were lucky enough to have the eclipse low enough in the sky to where we were able to capture totality with the Inspire 2 and X5S- a first for a drone (to our knowledge) to capture totality directly. Our m600 was able to capture the first aerial 360VR time-lapse of an eclipse. While rough and in need of polishing, we are proud to have been the first in the world to ever achieve both feats.
VR on YouTube:
See more of Kenji’s work at his site: http://www.dronescape.tv
Our trip was, by definition, spontaneous. Some friends of ours decided on the Wednesday before the August 21 eclipse that they were going to make their way to Kansas City to stay overnight and then head St. Joseph, MO to get into the path of totality. My wife Faizah, who, among other things, is a research scientist, and as such, is a total geek. She suggested we pull the two younger kids (we have another that in college and another out on his own) out of school, and take them to go see the eclipse. We did a search to find solar glasses and there were none to be found and so kind of dashed the idea.
Dismay was short-lived. On Friday, my wife, began the search again and her efforts got me to thinking out of the box. I knew that you could use welder’s goggles as long as you had level 14 shading. I started calling welding shops around the Oklahoma City area. Everyone was out of goggles and everyone was out of level 14, 13, 12, and 11 shaded glass. A bust! I started calling the welder supply stores outside of the city. Finally, after about the 20th call, on Saturday, I found a shop around 45 miles away that had one set of googles and two sets of level 14 shading. I asked them to hold those and I would be out to pick them up. Game on!
When I went to pick them up, the lady there suggested if you put a level 9 and a level 5 shade together that adds up to 14 and should do the trick. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but since I made the drive and the lenses were only two dollars apiece anyway, I would grab a couple extras. When I got home I compared the 9+5 to the 14 and they seemed reasonably close. I grabbed some small boxes and cut out the space for the shade glass. Put the boxes together and was ready to go. My wife, with her amazing ability to locate lodging, found us a place to stay for Sunday night.
Sunday, we packed up the boys and headed up to Kansas City. When we arrived, the weather was not looking so good. That night we met up with our friends at dinner and decided instead to go to Marshal MO. The predations looked clearer (my wife was monitoring the NOAA site which updates the future predictions for, amongst other things, cloud cover). The plan was to get up and be on the road by 8 am.
At 8, we met up for some coffee and saw that it was going to be touch and go. The interesting thing about a fixed target, is that you cannot be late or its gone. The eclipse is the ultimate target in that you miss this one, and it will be seven-years until the next in this country. One wrong decision and you will just watch the clouds get dark.
As we kept coming closer to Marshal, it wasn’t looking good. Faizah said Sedalia, MO would be a better shot. NOAA was predicting 30% and the clouds were moving NNE. Some other friends were monitoring out Facebook feed and came out to join us. Around 12:30 we finally found a little golf course that had no one in the parking lot.
We drove up and the lady there said the golf course was closed for the day. We said we were here to watch the eclipse and would it be all right to hang out here? She said that it would be fine and she said she had extra glasses that we could use. The course had purchased a pack of 50 and that there was still plenty left.
We ended up having a great experience – it was amazing to experience the darkness, the cooing effect and how nature responded to the event. Everyone had a really great time, more friends poured in to watch with us and we found out later that it was raining in Marshall and so not good viewing. It also amazed me that there were others who missed it just because they were not willing to be flexible. As it happens, the lady who let us use the golf course, was appreciative that we were there as she would have probably missed the event, but because of our being there made it much more enjoyable for her. Take-aways – be flexible and it will be a win for everyone.
Learn more about Thomas Testi’s photography here: http://www.kintsugiimages.com
It wasn’t one hour after being stuck in Cuba for a day and finally making it back stateside that I was on my way to South Carolina with my DJI Inspire 1 (X3 camera) and a DJI Phantom 3 Professional. It was 9 PM and with a 7 hour drive ahead of me, adrenaline was keeping me going. I spent over six weeks trying to pick the best location for totality, keeping in mind that I would be coming back from 9 day tough trip abroad. Based out of Washington, D.C the east coast was the only option. After looking at multiple variables, including length of totality, elevation, and weather conditions, I decided to make my primary location the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, South Carolina. I knew the place well because as I child, I spent my summers at the YMCA camp, ‘Camp Greenville’.
The plan was to scout the location after getting back from Cuba, check the weather frequently, and have a backup option in case the weather didn’t stay as clear as forecasted. But, because of flight delays we had to stick with Camp Greenville and nostalgia aside, when I finally arrived at 7 AM sunrise, the beautiful mountains and vivid sunset provided a fantastic test shoot.
We tested the light quality and angles using the sunset as a test of which was the best angle to capture the light. Then, after feeling satisfied and with the weather predicting full sunshine, low humidity, and no rain, we checked all of our equipment, put all the batteries on chargers and waited for totality.
The initial plan was to have one team member stream live to Facebook while the other shot a different angle – capturing a 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The sun was beautiful throughout the day with the fog over the mountains slowly subsiding. But, about an hour before the eclipse, a single cloud formed directly above my location, completely blocking the sun. After the cloud came the rain. As the Eclipse start time approached, the rain continued.Then, like magic, the rain stopped just as totality was starting. With only 1 minute 14 seconds of totality, the 2 drones were launched as fast as possible to try and capture the changing of light. With both drones up in the air, we were able to capture the full start and end of totality. While we were expecting full darkness, it was more like a beautiful sunset in the middle of the day.
Link to Vimeo video of timelapse:
Rain aside, covering the eclipse was an amazing experience. Next time though, I’ll have to make it out to Oregon.
See more of Andrew’s aerial video production here: https://haveyouseenmydrone.com
Bay Area – cloudy @79% totality
I knew we weren’t going to have the same experience as those that traveled a great distance but it was still worthwhile to at least set up a camera and provide a live feed to a flatscreen monitor for all our coworkers to view that didn’t have special glasses.
We set up our Blackmagic Pocket Cine Cam with a Rokinon 22/135 lens and a Genustech Matte Box with stacked Tiffen ND filters.
Of course, the day of the eclipse, we got socked-in with clouds and fog. We could only see something for a few seconds at a time, but I still gave it a go and captured a rather eerie effect… especially when it’s sped up to just a few seconds.