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The Great American Eclipse

September 18th, 2017 · No Comments

2017 Great American Eclipse

Just under a month ago I made a mad dash to Hopkinsville, Kentucky after what would end up being one of the most spectacular natural experiences of my life, the total solar eclipse.  While this would be my first time, I still ignored the advice of past eclipse-goers and planned to photograph the event.  That advice was still important, however, as this prompted me to plan my photographic experience down to the second and I mapped out a minimum of a minute to simply enjoy the phenomenon known as totality.

Kentucky Totality Map

I wanted to leave Kentucky with several totality images at different exposures, shot in rapid succession.  This would allow me to combine the images in post to allow viewers to see a much larger corona.  Along with that I planned to capture the diamond effect along with Bailey’s beads.  I had to have a solid plan and then rehearse that plan over and over to be ready but before we go into that I’m sure you’re wondering what the corona is, where diamonds come in and just where beads form on the sun.  The corona is the sun’s atmosphere.  To our eyes, it just appears to be a small beautiful wispy ring around the dark sun/moon during a total solar eclipse (totality).


The diamond effect is a small oval or somewhat diamond shaped area of light just before and just after totality (within 5-10 seconds).

Diamond Effect

Lastly, Bailey’s beads are the last tiny bits of light within the final seconds before totality still visible through the craters of the moon.

Bailey's Beads

While I’m thankful to have walked away with the incredible images above, let’s dive into the High Dynamic Range (HDR) image which was my primary focus for this event.  Knowing our human eyes would only be able to see a smaller portion of the corona, my goal was to create an image that would illustrate a much larger corona, along with some other special elements which would create an amazing overall image.  Without getting into too much detail, this image would take many images.  Some would be exposed several stops below the camera’s preferred exposure and some several stops above.

Multiple Exposures

The above represents just a subset of 18 totality images used to make the final photograph.  In post, I stacked the images using Photoshop and used special blending & filter techniques to create the final result.  By doing this it allowed me to include the much larger corona I was after, three stars are in view, and there are even features on the moon’s face in view from light being reflected off Earth.  The image below represents the image I’m most happy with after this event.

Eclipse HDR

If you weren’t able to experience this amazing event, a similar version just might be attainable in 2024.  This event won’t include a cross-country path of totality but it will still make its way from Texas to Ohio and if skies are clear, totality will be around four minutes.  Take it from me, start planning today!  Enjoy this last image which also include several partials taken with a solar filter before and after totality.

Eclipse All Phases

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