Eclipse by JJ   25 Aug 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

The Trip

JJ Osbun went to Zena, Oregon for the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Totality occurred at 10:15 am.

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 came and went in less than 2 hours, but it will outlast us all.

I had expected to be elsewhere, so a week before when I realized I would be able to film the event I immediately started preparing. That preparing mostly boiled down to finding a way to “see” the event. All matte box sized solar viewing filters were sold out, so I had to resort to rigging a 100mm x 100mm photographic IRND instead.

Some friends offered to have me join them at what would be one of the clearest viewing locations, the Zena Crown Vineyards of Oregon. I had to quickly set up… we arrived only minutes before the eclipse began. A gathering of friends and family was underway to watch the once-in-a-lifetime event unfold. I didn’t even get to say “hi” to most of them in my rush.

It was my first eclipse and a moment of singular focus for me to try and capture the astronomical phenomenon in a way that was compelling. This was the best I could manage, although I know I could have done better. Preparation for something one has never done before is already hard, but woking under the pressure of knowing how rare these things happen made it 10 times as nerve-racking and kept me from sleeping the night before. I spent the entire evening reading about great photographic victories and failures alike. Good thing too, I learned a few lessons that altered my approach.

I’d like to thank the Jackson family for inviting me!

Information for the Gear Heads:

I shot this on a Sony F55 in 4K, although exported in 2K for the web.

Given the 93 million miles between us and the sun, I am glad I had an Arri Alura 45-250mm with an Abel Cine Doubler, giving me an effective 500mm to work with. Although a bee fart made the lens shake.

I used a 15-stop IRND to cut down the sun’s photosphere by a factor of 32,000. A word of warning – an IRND does not cut UV light and I made the mistake of looking through a telescope at sun spots with it (15 seconds). My vision was hazy for a few days, but seems to be returning. Thought I’d share that in case anyone else can learn from my mistake.

To get the “diamond ring” effect, the IRND has to be removed just as the smallest fractions of the photosphere are visible. It does not take much sunlight to burn a camera sensor, so be careful.

F55 shoots eclipse

Sony F55 shoots total solar eclipse of 2017

Information for the Eclipse Geeks:

As the moon covers the final tenths of a percent of the sun’s photosphere “Baily’s Beads” (1 – see image below) are visible. Named for Francis Baily who explained the cause for this as being the sunlight passing through the mountain and valleys of the lunar surface. The “diamond ring” effect (3) occurs just before and after totality and is created by the last/first of the beads. The corona (2) is the “atmosphere” of the sun, which is visible during totality.


phases of total solar eclipse

1. Baily’s Beads caused by irregular lunar surface. 2. Corona seen during totality. 3. The Diamond Ring effect as a singular “bead” is visible.

It generates a collective amazement from pretty much everyone who sees it. Imagine not knowing about the actual cause of a solar eclipse, which is basically true for almost all of human history save the last few generations. Might be one of the most spiritual/scary moments of your life… was that the face of “God”? A divine hex?? Whatever it was, it was certainly something powerful and it would come as a surprise. The biggest hints you would have are that temperatures fall, shadows get sharper small openings project crescent-shaped light, and animals behave strangely. The moon is not visible with the sun behind it, so only just before and after totality would you be able to look directly at the sun and see its black face. Then, within minutes, the ‘sign’ is gone and the sun returns.

The rarity of totality events still makes them incredible sights to behold. Not all solar eclipses have totality events. The moon is off earth’s axis by 5° and that is enough to makes eclipses rare to begin with. Add to that the fact that totality will only occur when the moon is close in enough in its orbit to earth (big enough in the sky) to fully cover the photosphere of the sun. Only about 25% of solar eclipses have totality events.

A total eclipse in 1919 was used to confirm parts of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. As totality occurs the offset of stars behind the sun proved the curvature of space-time. An extreme example of this effect is the gravitational lensing created by dense galaxies, which warp the light from galaxies behind them. The below image of LRG 3-757 (Luminous Red Galaxy) is from Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera.

Gravitational Lensing

Gravitational lensing of LRG 3-757 as seen by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera

I used Premiere Pro and After Effects. The stars are, unfortunately, an added effect. Impossible to capture that wide of a dynamic range, so I added them in afterwards for aesthetics. Copyright © 2017 JJ Osbun