Thursday, August 24, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017: a total solar eclipse passing through just south of Portland, Oregon. A mere 4 hour drive south of Seattle. Naturally we went: due to forecast traffic we drove to Vancouver, WA on Saturday morning, spent one night there, then Sunday night at 2am woke up and drove down to Weathers Street Park in Salem. We didn't want to take any chances and miss the "totality": being in the path of the total eclipse. Traffic was light for both drives. It took about an hour to get to Salem, where the city had opened all of the city parks to free tent camping. We didn't know this when we formulated the plan -- we planned to do this all along. We set up a tent and threw the kids in, set up a cot and a hammock and slept under the stars. Amazingly everyone went back to sleep and slept until the usual wake up time of 7am.

The eclipse started just after 9am, with the total eclipse lasting one minute and fifty two seconds. I set up my digital SLR on a tripod taking a photo every minute then every 2 seconds, then every 5 seconds. I wasn't confident of the sun's path, and I knew I didn't want a big wide-angle shot since I wanted more of a closeup of the sun, so I had to periodically go back and re-adjust. I stitched these images together into a video which turned out really rather nicely especially given how little I paid attention to the setup.

About 15 minutes prior to the totality I also kicked off a live stream on Facebook from my iPad which was viewed live by 44 people, with more subsequent views. In the chaos that followed I neglected to upload nor save locally the HD version of the video -- a missed opportunity but I think the video is actually most interesting for the reaction of the crowd when the sun is completely eclipsed.

Finally I used my iPhone to record a very short (about 44 second) video during the midst of the totality. It truly was frantic: I wanted to capture the kids' reactions, and capture the birds, and the sky, and the crowd, all the while also trying to take in the experience myself. This XKCD comic puts it best: a total solar eclipse is so, so, so much more amazing that a partial eclipse.

I shared a lot of stuff on Facebook already; there's a collection of all the content on Google Photos as usual. For this event, however, I went a step further: I assembled all three videos linked above into a single video. The DSLR stitched photos isn't actually real time -- it's sped up dramatically then I repeat the same couple bits over and over until the end of the totality where it speeds up dramatically again -- but I got pretty close to syncing the start of the total eclipse with the Facebook live feed video. The live feed video plus the 44 second clip both have audio which made it possible to play both videos in sync with each other. So I assembled a montage of all three videos: you can see what the sun is doing at the same time as you hear the crowd, then you get a glimpse of on-the-ground action in the middle of it all.

A couple of quick notes: the FB live stream video has been trimmed significantly for the clip from its original length, and when the short clip swings over to the left you can see the DSLR that's taking the photos, and to its right you can see a pillar supporting the roof of the picnic area -- you might be able to just barely make out the iPad leaning up against it (in case you wanted an idea of where each video originates).


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