Visualization | Annular Eclipse & Old Faithful

 Click here for a quick timelapse of the eclipse, taken just before the clouds returned...  

Annular Eclipse over Yellowstone National Park on May 20th, 2012

The goal was to make a single image of the Eclipse AND the Geyser eruption occurring at the same time.

A scene with a sense of awe --- bright day, blue sky, white geyser steam and movement or gestures of the onlookers straining to see the flow or connection of these two phenomenons.

The challenge was shooting 'into' the direction of the bright sun.

This image is a composite with two frames
1. A filter-less shot of the eclipse/geyser/onlookers and
2. A shot with a .9 ND filter capturing the bright sun being eclipsed,
using the steam as an additional filter.

Old Faithful erupts nearly 130 feet high (40 m) every 90 minutes.  The previous eruption was at 4:50pm.  The eclipse would begin at 6:12pm and peak (71%) at 7:22pm, ending with the moon passing out of the sun's way around 8:25pm.  The eruptions last only 2 minutes and stay at peak height for less than a minute. This means my exposure timing would be crucial.  So, I practiced the shot(s) a day earlier.

The day before the eclipse I scouted the area around Old Faithful and watched the path of the sun from 5pm until it set.  It was windy and the same was predicted for Sunday’s weather.  I found a spot to set up with the side of Old Faithful Lodge as a wind block.  I setup the tripods and cameras, framed the scene and practiced shooting. Shutter speeds and ISO’s were adjusted to compensate for the bright sun and neutral density (ND) & circular polarizing filters.

Visitors watch Old Faithful Geyser erupt
as the moon partially eclipses the sun.

On Sunday, I found my mark and setup the tripods in the same place around the corner of the Lodge out of the breeze…and watched the cloud filled sky begin to dissipate.   (I’d patiently saved up all my cloud busting thoughts for this particular hour.)  The clouds continued to disappear, the breeze died down…

The Shoot
I setup two cameras and tripods.
It was a way to have both a close-up of the eclipse and a wider ‘story’ shot of the geyser eruption with the eclipse.

The D300 w/ focal length of 1200mm on board was shot every 5 minutes through a 4” mirror-front Orion Solar Filter.  Using ‘live view’ I easily followed the sun and readjusted the composition for each shot.

The D700 w/ focal length of 200mm was composed to catch the sun & moon above the geyser and the onlookers.
Fitted with a .9 ND filter, it was not strong enough to hold back the sun by itself.  The eclipsed sun was still too bright. The top of the scene was still overexposed.  With a circular polarizer attached to the ND, the filters were too strong.  The sun and the silhouette of the passing moon could be captured but everything else in the scene was darkened.

As the geyser peaked and the thick steam rose to cover the sun you could see the silhouette of the passing moon, but the sun was still very bright.  I quickly bracketed exposures with the ND filter on & off and shot through the geyser steam.  The composite of a good exposure of  the Eclipse (with bottom of the scene dark) and a good exposure of the Geyser eruption with onlookers (with top of the scene light) was made. 

A 'shout-out' to everyone who stopped by to have a chat & look at the live view while I shot two cameras.

Hi to Steven at the campground, chopping & riding  x-country on his Harley.  And a special shout to new friends, Freya & Claus.  
The best part of the event was sharing the moment, the conversation, the Guinness and the mosquito chasing with you...

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
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"Keep Looking UP"


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