24
Aug

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual

Earlier this week, the Great American Eclipse crossed the United States from coast to coast leaving in its wake breathlessness, togetherness followed by some gnarly traffic.  Continue on to see all my favorite shots, some behind the scenes stuff and my commentary from a day I will never forget!

About a month ago when eclipse fever began taking over the country, I honestly had no desire to attempt to shoot it. It would be coming on Monday August 21, which was on my travel day home from four days on the road in Minnesota and the idea of spending a lot of time, effort and money didn’t seem worth it.

The closer Aug. 21st got, I started to see social media posts from more photographer colleagues of mine and the seeds of wanting to cover the eclipse began to grow.  However, I am a sports photographer so self doubt crept in telling me to let the professional landscape/nature photogs do their thing and I’ll just admire that instead of going out and making an ass of myself with some average results.

Then a few weeks ago my best friend Guy Rhodes would come to Phoenix for a week of storm chasing with me.  With storms disappearing for his week with me , we would have to figure out some other things to do to stay entertained. talked into trying to shoot airplanes flying through the moon.  With the help of a moon tracking app and hauling ass around some rather suspect areas of downtown Phoenix I would nail a pretty cool “Moonplaning” image.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 5000iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Manual     CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

The next day we went back out to attempt to achieve a similar photo but instead of the moon we wanted the sun.   I would quickly learn that it was a lot harder shot to get (actually impossible without a solar filter over the lens) as this failure frame of plane disappearing into the brightness of the sun illustrates.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 50iso, f32, 1/8000th, Manual    

This shot after the plane passed through the sun was acceptable though.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 50iso, f32, 1/8000th, Manual     CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

The power of social media would get my image of the Moonplaning in front of a thousands of people, including a reporter for ABC 15 News in Phoenix who did an interview with me and Guy about chasing the perfect shot.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH INTERVIEW

All the fun I was having chasing unique nature shots was all I needed to see to know that I had to cover the eclipse within the thin totality zone that stretched across America so I invested about 1500.00 into travel accommodations to meet up with Guy to see one of natures rarest and coolest treats.

Since Guy is the king of researching and executing an idea I was able to sit back and let him figure out the logistics of where we should shoot the event from.

A few days later he let me know that he had decided on a small historic graveyard in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri which was directly on the line for totality which would give us the full show plus some of the longest amount of totality possible.

The weather forecast leading up to the 21st was quite nerve-wracking and the 40% chance of rain on eclipse day definitely had me nervous.

After shooting an NHRA drag race in northern Minnesota all weekend I would wake up on the morning of the eclipse at 4:20am for my 6:00 flight to St Louis.  After Guy scooped me up from the airport we grabbed our traditional Denny’s breakfast and then it was southbound on I-55 towards Sainte Genevieve!

Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The traffic was definitely more than usual for a Monday morning but we would have no issues getting to our destination with several hours to spare before totality.

With all the talk of fake solar glasses out there I was pretty confident mine were real as I couldn’t see a thing!

Photo by Guy Rhodes

The only shot I really cared about was the sun blocked out by the moon during totality so I didn’t put any effort into trying to buy a solar filter to cover the rest of the eclipse. Nor did I bother bringing a tripod. (Lawn chair provided by Guy)

Photo by Guy Rhodes

Compared to Guys technical setup with multiple cameras on tripods and a studio light illuminating a gravesite, my setup of sitting in a lawnchair handholding my Canon 1Dx mk2 with a 600mm lens seemed like amateur hour and self doubt started to creep into my head.

 

Guy Rhodes wears solar glasses as he looks to the sky alongside his Canon 1Dx mk2 on a 800mm lens with a 1.4 converter for a crazy 1120mm of reach as he awaits the C1 phase of the eclipse.

I wasn’t expecting it to be so hot but conditions were quite miserable with 95 degree temps that translated to 107 degrees once you factored in the humidty!

As totality edged closer and closer, clouds in the sky started building and coming across the sun which definitely led to me pacing around nervous that the clouds covering the sun would be the only eclipse I’d see on this day.

Worried about the clouds led me to borrow Guys solar filter so I could get a couple shots in the book just in case we got screwed by the clouds.

Canon 1Dx, 800mm with 1.4 converter (1120mm), 1000iso, f11, 1/3200th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

With about 20 minutes to totality the clouds cleared up and the excitement began to ramp up.

About five minutes before totality I was running around looking for snake shadows beneath trees that would show the eclipse in its shadows.

Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

The eclipse app on Guys phone would give us time warnings until totality and even a creepy sounding countdown when totality occurred.

Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT
People view a total solar eclipse prior to totality as viewed from a graveyard cemetery in the town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.

You’re not supposed to start shooting without a solar filter until the moon was completely blocking the sun but I had to start off early as I wanted to get the elusive “Diamond ring shot”

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1000iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1000iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

As I was shooting these photos I was literally shaking, screaming, laughing and crying at the same time.  It was a spiritual moment realizing how small we really are in the expansive universe we occupy.

With the sun completely blocked you could see the incredible corona glowing behind the moon.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

After getting the close ups I wanted of the start of totality, I would set my big camera down and start running looking for some other shots to round out my take.

One thing that blew me away was how even the tiniest part of the sun being exposed kept it bright outside. I had friends shooting in areas with 99% coverage of the sun and their pictures look nothing like those of the people in full coverage totality.

Only when the sun went completely behind the moon did it get dark, and it happened quick!

Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

You could hear cheers and screams from all around the area as everyone enjoyed the celestial event. Note the streetlight on in background.

Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Aperture Priority   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT
People view a total solar eclipse during totality as viewed from a graveyard cemetery in the town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.

Canon 1Dx, 16-35mm, 8000iso, f2.8, 1/100th, Aperture Priority   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT
Venus is visible above the trees (on the right) during totality as viewed from a graveyard cemetery in the town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.

I didn’t expect to be able to see solar flares during the eclipse but there they were!

 

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1000iso, f7.1, 1/800th, Manual    CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

Baileys Beads are visible as the sun begins to come out the other side.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

Less than three minutes after totality started it would come to a spectacular end as the sun made its way out of the moons path giving me a second diamond ring shot.

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

Canon 1Dx, 600mm, 1600iso, f9, 1/8000th, Manual   CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE PRINT

I really wish there was a way to explain all the emotions flowing through me after that. It was truly an emotional experience that everyone needs to experience!

This video of a Weather Channel reporters reaction to getting emotion is exactly how I felt.

After packing up and leaving the cemetery to head back to St Louis, the hour drive took about two hours because of traffic but we weren’t complaining one bit (ok maybe a little bit because I wanted to edit my photos and enjoy an adult beverage!)

In this day an age where nearly everything is politicized and you’re judged heavily for your politics, religion, race or sexuality, it honestly restored my faith in humanity that as I scrolled through Facebook that there was no mention of politics, racism, and all the other nonsense. Instead all the posts were about peoples eclipse experience.

Honestly the only complaining I saw on Facebook for the next several hours was from pissed off people who didn’t get to see the eclipse due to cloud cover.

I can absolutely promise you that I would have had a meltdown for the ages had clouds ruined it for me!!!

My only regret from yesterday (other than not wearing shorts) is that my fiancé Kendra wasn’t there with me to experience it.  Luckily for her (and me) I’m already planning to take her with me to the next solar eclipse in about two years which will take place in Buenos Aries, Argentina at sunset on July 2, 2019!

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in the ocean, shoot multiple Super Bowls, Olympics, World Cup, World Series and hundreds of other awesome events but this honestly topped them all (even my Larry Dixon crash sequence!)

Until you’ve witnessed it turn from day to night in seconds during a total solar eclipse you’ll never understand how life changing this experience was!

I wanna shoot every solar eclipse for the rest of my life!!!!

Now to pack for my flight to Vegas to shoot Mayweather vs McGregor!


 
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