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; Update – more 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.