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Crescent Sun

May 21, 2012

My photography may not have been prolific in the last six months, but I’ve sure had good luck with astronomical phenomena! I debated quite a bit with myself over how to have a go at yesterday’s solar eclipse. Virtually all the advice out there about photographing solar eclipses is aimed at astronomy-style closeups (or at best composite sequences, such as this very nice example from a fellow New Mexican). I couldn’t muster much interest in that approach: any number of other people out there do it better, and I didn’t feel the need to have my own. But the sheer intensity of light involved makes shots of solar eclipses in a landscape context damn near impossible. Part of me felt like I might be happier just watching the event with my family than tearing my hair out over an exercise in photographic exasperation. But I did at last decide to throw some effort out there and see if it might stick.

I debated a lot of locations, but finally settled on the same long view of Cabezon Peak, the giant volcanic neck in the New Mexico desert that gave me very good results for last December’s lunar eclipse. I’m glad I did! We New Mexicans had a real advantage for this one, in that we were not only right on the path of prime viewing, but we were also pretty far east on that path, which meant that the eclipsing sun would appear low down towards the horizon. I shot quite a few sequences, some through a solar filter (which I also used to compose shots without going blind, though composition was definitely a trial and error affair), most as straight exposures at a variety of shutter speeds. Despite our favorable longitude, the full annularity occurred well above the horizon, and those shots will take quite a bit of fancy exposure blending, if I can make anything of them at all (Youssef Ismail has a very nice version; Updatemore from Youssef here). But as the eclipse waned and the sun sank, I increasingly had atmospheric haze on my side, and my last few sequences of shots contained some decent exposures. The image above is a very simple blend, with one exposure for the sun and most of the frame, and a longer one blended in for a little better foreground detail. The shot below is a single frame straight up, minimal processing, as the crescent sank behind the pillar of Cabezon like a last tribute to a great old volcano.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 11:03 pm

    WOW!

    • May 21, 2012 11:28 pm

      Thanks Larissa! The only thing missing was you dressed as an Aztec priestess.

      • May 21, 2012 11:42 pm

        damn! next year!

      • May 22, 2012 10:03 am

        Ha! I did hear a number of newscasters mangle “annular” into “annual eclipse.” No such luck, though any time you want to play Aztec on an extinct New Mexican volcano, it can be arranged.

      • May 22, 2012 10:14 am

        We’re lucky–”annular” could be mangled into worse words than “annual”, I think…!

  2. Proclus permalink
    May 22, 2012 12:52 pm

    I’ll second Larissa’s initial comment and add a “holy mackerel”. Those are some pretty dramatic shots.

    • May 22, 2012 8:25 pm

      Larissa as Aztec priestess, yes!

      Larissa– I have signed on Twitter again…

  3. May 23, 2012 7:12 am

    Jackson,

    Your lead photo in this post is quite moving. You’ve done a great job of putting the sun and moon into context. While they are entities in the sky admired by astronomers it’s their relation to the earth that makes them important and I think your photo portrays that very well. Thanks.

    • May 23, 2012 8:02 am

      Thank you, Youssef! That relation to the earth is what I was hoping to capture somehow, but I really wasn’t sure if I could work it out.

  4. May 26, 2012 1:15 pm

    Wow, Jackson, you did an excellent job in capturing the eclipse. It is a very unique image with the crescent sun. Nicely done! I decided in the end to just watch the eclipse.

    • May 29, 2012 3:41 pm

      Thanks Anne, I’m definitely pleased with this one. I certainly thought about just watching, even obsessive photographers sometimes need a break from photographic thoughts, but I glad I gave it a shot.

  5. June 4, 2012 11:08 am

    This is sweet, Jackson! You really nailed it. I like the eclipse photos that show a little of the landscape for reference, and your choice of subjects here is perfect.

    We watched the eclipse through a pinhole…no photography this time.

    Was your solar filter homemade?

    • June 4, 2012 11:28 am

      Thanks Greg! I just ordered a cheap solar filter intended for a telescope, erring on the large side. Then I sliced up a neoprene beer coozie and glued four pieces to the inner barrel of the filter so it would fit the lens snugly. Kind of a ghetto approach to solar photography, but it was quite satisfactory.

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