I am beyond thankful and humbled to have had the good fortune of witnessing the solar eclipse from within the area of totality in Columbia, South Carolina.
Sunday, August 20th
I loaded the car down with camera gear, a small suitcase and, of course, my solar glasses, and by 9:30am I was off…. to the land of eclipse totality!
I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as traffic, but for the most part, the drive was ok. I drove from VA to SC and encountered most of my traffic in NC… surprisingly unrelated to the eclipse travel.
I was surprised to find the local SC towns looking to be operating as usua, without overwhelming crowds or chaos as I had anticipated. They were; however, full of excitement and well prepared for the potential.
I was fortunate enough not to have to find hotel accommodations as I have family a few minutes away from Columbia. My luck didn’t end there… I hit the procrastinators “jackpot” by being invited to join my aunt and her friends for the eclipse tailgate party at the University of SC.
Monday, August 21st, 2017
We arrived at the University of South Carolina around 9:00am and I was shocked to find ZERO traffic. Relieved that I was not headed into doomsday chaos, I returned my thoughts to the local weather. It was hot and sunny, but I worried that it may not stay that way. I had obsessed over the threat of clouds & rain for weeks, but the weather reports began to improve and with them, so did my excitement. I was about to see my first solar eclipse, y’all!
My set-up….The sun can damage the cameras just as it can our eyes, so I added solar filters to each one. As far as equipment goes, I used two different cameras. For most of the eclipse, I used a Nikon D3300 with the 55-200mm kit lens. Light weight and super effective, I couldn’t have been happier with how well this camera and its “kit” lens performed. The smaller sensor size was definitely an asset. I used a Nikon D750 with a Tamron 70-200mm lens as well, primarily during totality as it tends to perform better in low light. Not shown in the set-up is the Tokina 11-16 wide-angle lens that I used for a few of my foreground shots.
Below is a little video I snagged while waiting in line for some fun give-aways… such a low key crowd ready for some eclipse fun!
A few pics of the fair grounds and tailgating
Although it was REALLY hot, tailgaters could find some relief inside the fairgrounds main building. The building was fully air conditioned, with lots of tables where you could sit and cool off along with outlets to recharge your batteries as needed.
The eclipse began, just after 1pm and well, I have to say, with all of the hype, I thought that maybe there would be some sort of symphony orchestra or a marching band that would supply the soundtrack throughout the eclipse, but everything seemed to carry on as normal. Well, that is, if you consider thousands of strangers hanging out together, wearing funny glasses and staring up at the sun to be normal.
While photographing the eclipse, I took care to ensure that my equipment was not only protected from the damaging rays of the sun, but also from that southern summer heat. Electronics don’t like sitting in direct sunlight for extended periods of time when the heat index is over 100 degrees.
As a photographer, I read as much as I could regarding ways to prepare for the eclipse, and I am just going to be really honest with everybody when I say this… unless you were in an area where you were going to experience totality, there really wasn’t a whole lot to worry about; it takes a long time for the moon to work its way across. All you really need to do is take a couple of practice shots, make sure your shots are sharp and properly exposed to your liking and then you just need to snap every couple of minutes and enjoy the experience. Look at the fun shadows and take in the scenery around you. There is so much happening and so much fun to be had; you don’t want to miss any of it fiddling with your camera unnecessarily.
However, for those who are interested, I will have a follow-up to this that covers the technical stuff based on my personal experience.
So now the fun stuff…
So what is totality really like? The temps dropped a few degrees and the sky went from bright daylight to dusk in a matter of seconds. It was instantly very quiet, a flock of birds took off and suddenly landed and the crowd around me cheered in amazement. It was nothing short of amazing. But, honestly, its hard to describe how truly awesome it was. It is simply something you have to experience.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017
Traffic remained a bit heavy, so I took advantage of this extra time on the road to take in the scenery from SC to VA.
A few quick snapshots of the Blue Ridge Parkway on my way home.
For prints from the eclipse, click here.