Story Behind the Image - Eclipsing the Mountains

Hi Adventurers!

Once in a lifetime shots are always the best, but they can be nerve wracking knowing you only have one shot at it. Eclipsing the Mountains was shot during the 2017 total solar eclipse and you might ask yourself, “why doesn’t it have the diamond ring effect iconic to the solar eclipses?” Don’t worry I’ll get to that.

The cool thing about this year is that we have two solar eclipses coming up Oct 14, 2023 and also April 8, 2024. So hopefully my previous story and tips will help you plan if you are wanting to see the full eclipse. Biggest things to remember are you need special eyewear to witness them without damaging your sight and special filters on your camera to protect the sensor from catching fire. With this in mind, we will jump right into the lead up to this shot.

As my first solar eclipse, I had to acquire all the shooting equipment. So, I hunted for the filters I needed. They were almost completely sold out of the size for my lens, so I ended up getting 1 screw-on solar filter and one that was meant for telescopes. But, it got the job done of keeping my lens safe. I even took a class on how to photograph the solar eclipse, cause I didn’t want to mess it up on the big day. The class was at a local camera shop in Washington, called Glazers, and the guy teaching the class was doing it with the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker I have. The funny thing is I had bought my Polarie from a magazine when I was in college so I already knew my Polarie forwards and backwards. The guy taught us how to use the filters, all the things to look out for to make sure we didn’t have our cameras die while photographing, and how to set the Polarie in the daytime when you obviously can’t find the north star.

I wanted to track the whole eclipse, so, when I was scouting, I tried to make sure my landscape wouldn’t block my view of the eclipse. My first thought was to go to Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. Now, I will admit that I was late to booking my accommodations and such. It was two weeks out of the eclipse and a pain in the butt to find any vacancies anywhere in Oregon. I went down in-person to see if I could find accommodations that I couldn’t find online and to make sure the location was going to be as good as I had hoped. Turned out that the spot would’ve been great but I couldn’t find a place to stay, and when I asked the local grocery store selling a bunch of solar eclipse merch if they were excited, they said they were honestly worried about running out of food. They were a city with a population of about 6,000 and they were expecting at least 40,000 visitors on the day alone. The city was not even close to being able to handle that kind of traffic, so I thought I might want to find another place.

My backup was Mt. St. Helens, which was lovely, as it wasn’t overcrowded, with me and maybe 2 other groups at the viewpoint. Granted it was only 99% totality, which does actually make a world of difference. The totality being 99% instead of the 100% is why you only see the sun go into the thinnest of slivers in this shot vs having a black dot outlined with a spark of white light on the outside. But it was a blast still seeing it and bringing up a few friends to watch it with us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience where you got to hear nature completely still and quiet on an otherwise normal morning.

Not wanting to get stuck in traffic, we were up on our spot on the mountain at 3:30am. I believe we left the house at about midnight so we were in for quite a long day ahead of us. The sun rose at 6:16 AM that day and that is when the first sun shot was taken. The base shot of Mt. St. Helens was shot just before the sun was in view. The eclipse started at 9:07am (where I was) with the peak of the eclipse occurring at 10:20 AM with it concluding at 11:39 AM. 

As we had been awake for far too long at this point, we decided to see how long it was going to take to get back home. Dan saw that the GPS had a black traffic line out of Oregon on I5 and we decided best hit the road before that traffic gets any closer to where we were. 

Once we got home, this shot sat on the hard drive for years while I tried to figure out how to edit it all together and get over the fact that it was not quite in totality. When did I finally whip it all together you may ask? It was actually right after I did Blood Eclipse Over Feathers in 2021. I was so happy with how the progression looked and how that shot turned out that I dusted off these files and decided to put it all together in a similar fashion.

Moral of the story, if your photo, project, or adventure doesn't turn out exactly how you pictured, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. You may have to get over that little hurdle and learn from it for the next time. But I can say now, I really do like the shots and love the memories of this adventure.

Till the next adventure,


P.S. Oh, and if you are planning on seeing an upcoming eclipse, please make sure to have protective gear for your vision and camera and try to see it at 100% totality if you can.