In preparation for Monday’s solar eclipse, I tracked down four local photographers to get their takes on how they’re planning to approach this once-in-a-lifetime event. In the process, I think I may have stumbled upon another rare occurrence involving the consensus of creative minds.
Basically, all of the photographers, in one way or another, explained that they’re planning to leave all the super-telephoto heavy lifting to the good folks at NASA, the Associated Press and other entities with the necessary solar optics for documenting the eclipse. The local photographers I talked to — Earl Richardson, Michael C. Snell, Doug Stremel and Mike Yoder — won’t be training their lenses on any overlapping of celestial bodies, specifically, but will largely be focusing their attention on people, landscapes and the observable effects of the phenomenon projected on Earth.
Before we get into what each had to say, it’s worth noting again that solar filter glasses are necessary for viewing the eclipse and solar lens filters are necessary for photographing the eclipse. The only time NASA says it is safe to take off your eclipse glasses or solar filter is if you are within the path of totality and during the brief period of total eclipse. NASA has a good safety guide on its website at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
And without further ado …
Where he will be: Driggs, Idaho, on the Cycle Greater Yellowstone bike ride (within the path of totality).
How: “On this trip, I’m considering myself not a professional and just kind of a tourist. I’m not going to take any of my DSLR gear. I’m just carrying a little Sony point-and-shoot, which has a 24 mm to 70 mm. Prior to the total eclipse, I’m going to photograph all the other participants wearing the goofy glasses and hanging out. Also, I’m going to watch for the eclipse shadows — the way the eclipse will cause the trees to cast these unusual shapes and rings and stuff on walls and the ground. When it actually does get to total eclipse, just for grins, I’ve got a tiny tripod for this point-and-shoot. I’m going to try to bracket my exposures in a manual setting and do some long exposures. If nothing else, maybe I’ll get the real distant eclipse, but I might be able to do long enough exposures that it kind of captures some of the stars and planets."
It should be mentioned that Yoder, who performs with the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band, even composed a song, "The Great American Eclipse,” which can be heard on the Science Friday Eclipse Challenge website.
Michael C. Snell:
Where he will be: Undecided, but somewhere within the path of totality in the northeast corner of Kansas.
How: “I feel like the best thing I can do is get more of a landscape or get a church steeple or a barn, something that’s got some height to it. The sun’s going to be pretty high. What I thought I’d do is look for something to give me enough height that I could have the sun in frame around a big huge gap between it and the horizon. Really, I’m not worrying about the solar filters and all of that you would need if the sun were still visible. I’m just going to look for that minute and a half or two minutes that it’s in totality. The thing I’ve learned from doing long exposure night shots before is that you can’t go too long on your exposure because things are moving. If you’re shooting wide angle, try to keep it below 15 or 20 seconds. It’s just going to be a guessing game, I think. Let’s just hope it’s not cloudy.”
Where he will be: Deerfield Neighborhood, Lawrence, not within the path of totality.
How: “We get almost totality, but not quite here. I want to see how people react to this and also what things will look like. One of the things I’ve noticed from eclipses in the past is if you’re outdoors and you’re anywhere near a tree with lots of leaves, if you look at the ground, the sidewalk or the grass, you can see the light filtering through there. It’s really interesting. My advice to people would be just to enjoy the event; be in the moment. Many of us will never see (this) again. The most important thing may be to just experience this event, not necessarily document it.”
Where he will be: Troy, Kan., within the path of totality.
How: “I’m sort of more interested in the spectacle of the whole event, just to sort of capture what people are experiencing. You know, whether they’re looking, photographing, partying. I’d like to document the day. It’s a really small town and it doesn't have very many people. There’s going to be tens of thousands of people there. Hopefully, I can sort of get the emptiness of it and then just how it fills up. I’m thinking about doing a portraiture thing, too, (with) the goofy glasses on. I’d like to do sort of a face quilt of about 25-50 images of people with the glasses on. I think I’ll get a really nice flavor of people in that town because it will be a bunch of small-town folks, hopefully some (out-of-town) visitors and, you know, just whoever shows up there.”