The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 far exceeded my expectations. I chose McClellanville, SC as my destination as it was the last US city in the path of totality, right smack in the center. I drove down with great anticipation and a bit of concern about the weather conditions.
The day began with light rain and then cleared to partly cloudy skies in the hours just before the big event. As the eclipse start time drew closer, it was clear that eclipse mania was in full swing. WPDE out of Myrtle Beach was onsite broadcasting LIVE and onlookers began to gather and line the waterfront docks. Boats anchored all along the marsh channel and music played from nearby homes where eclipse partygoers celebrated this historic event.
At 1:17 pm the Moon’s silhouette made the first contact with the solar disc. The growing crowd of all ages watched with their solar glasses and some stopped by to take a closer look through my solar filtered binoculars. Most were thrilled to see sunspots for the very first time. Just before totality, everyone was looking up watching the sun very closely, waiting for those few seconds when the last blast of sunlight known as “The Diamond Ring” appeared right before the Moon darkened the Sun.
As totality got closer the clouds magically opened up around the sun. Talk about relief and a rush of adrenalin! Then it happened. Dazzled viewers began shouting, “It’s The Diamond Ring!” and cheering erupted from every direction.
David Bowie’s Ground Control to Major Tom filled the air as I feverishly clicked away with my camera and 500mm lens. I had been waiting for this moment since 2002 when I began shooting astrophotography through my first telescope. Now it was actually happening and it was spectacular.
I fully expected that I’d be visually impressed with my first solar eclipse but during the 2 minutes and 34 seconds of totality, I was completely awestruck. The world and time seemed to stand still. The cheering onlookers became much quieter, the temperature dropped noticeably and a nearby thunderstorm flashed with lightning in the darkness. Stars and planets were visible overhead and an orange sunset-like effect at the edge of the Moon’s shadow was visible on the horizon in the east over the marsh.
I made a decision before I began photographing this to stop for 30 seconds and just look around to take it all in. I’m so glad I did. The tunnel vision that photography can be at times like this is a perfect way to miss the bigger picture and what a glorious picture it was. As totality ended and the second Diamond Ring appeared the crowd erupted again and then quickly it was light again and cheers rang out. I began looking through the photos on my camera, holding my breath and hoping I had captured the money shots I’d envisioned for so many years.
YES!, there they were and I couldn’t contain the excitement. I let out a loud WOOHOO! throwing my arms in the air. The crowds nearby looked my way and let out another cheer. How cool that they were happy for me?! There’s no way to describe totality without falling short. It simply must be experienced to be appreciated for its magnificence. Every person I spoke with afterward was smiling and some were even giddy. Without a doubt – an unforgettable day.
I’m very pleased with the images I captured but far more fulfilled by the experience. I hope you enjoy my photos from the Great American Eclipse. They’ll hold a high ranking in my astro collection for many years to come.