It happened. It finally happened. Exactly 8 years and 1 month after my first attempt, I finally got to successfully witness a total solar eclipse. For those who didn't know me back then, let me briefly show you what my first attempt looked like:
I just happened to be visiting Shanghai that summer when the total solar eclipse was passing by. Time of totality for the Shanghai eclipse was over 5 minutes! We had clear skies up until the day of the eclipse. It was partly cloudy the morning of the eclipse so there was still some hope. And then a couple hours before totality it turned into total cloud coverage and then started to rain. In retrospect, this was probably for the better. I had no idea what I was doing then and most likely would have just pointed my camera up at the sun to take photos and destroyed everything.
Anyhow, I've been keeping my eye on the Oregon solar eclipse for a few years now and passively planned on photographing it if conditions are good and it's convenient. I did my research on what to do and what not to do to protect my camera, my lens, and my eyes. However, I didn't actually commit to going down to photograph the eclipse until the early morning of the eclipse when I woke up at 4:30am to check traffic conditions. Because of this, I didn't have a solar filter, solar glasses, or a lens longer than 100mm. Regardless, I knew I could photograph totality without a solar filter and I have already seen partial solar eclipses so I was okay with not capturing the lead up to totality.
I drove down to McMinnville, OR without any traffic and arrived around 6am. I hung out at a local cafe there and scoped out a few potential spots to photograph the eclipse. Since the sun would be so high up in the sky, there wasn't really any opportunity for me to capture the eclipse with the landscape. I settled on the top of a parking garage. The challenge with this trip was that I only had 58 seconds to safely point my camera up at the eclipse, frame my shot, focus, and take a whole bunch of photos at multiple exposures. It wasn't difficult to get the eclipse in the frame of the camera since I was only at 100mm, I preset my focus to infinity, and set my camera up to take bracketed photos and continuous shooting mode. All I had to do was hold the shutter down a few times and let the camera do its thing. I also made an effort to enjoy the eclipse with my own eyes--so I wasn't even paying attention to the camera as it was taking photos. If the photos didn't turn out to provide anything useful, that was okay too. Fortunately, I think I was able to capture some pretty good keepers given my limited planning and equipment. I am happy with the results.
There are definite areas for improvement the next time a total eclipse comes my way. I would plan a bit better by getting a solar filter for my lens. I would rent a longer lens--probably 500mm. I would pre-focus the lens a day or two before the eclipse and practice photographing the sun. I would get a remote trigger for the camera to minimize any shake. I would also probably have a second camera at a wider angle to capture the scenery if available.
If you have an opportunity to witness totality of a solar eclipse, I would highly recommend it. It is worth it.