Well, after seeing a total eclipse we might have just turned into eclipse chasers (a/k/a umbraphiles). Yes, spending 2’4″ in totality was THAT amazing. Our location was a remote mountain in Oregon south of Baker City. Though remote, we were not nearly alone as it is pretty easy to access the ridge we were on and the mountain top itself has an old naval installation. A steady progression of vehicles rolled past our camp all morning so we were up early to hit our chosen viewing spot. At nearly 6000′ in the dry mountains of eastern Oregon we had a cloudless, 360º view of the horizon.
The ridge was quite windy, though the wind really died down as totality approached, so I set up my tripod very low to the ground. I was using a Canon 100-400mm 4.5/5.6L lens on a Canon 70D body with an 18-stop solar filter. We also set up Sara’s iPhone to record the whole scene with a time lapse app. Finally, both my brother and Dad were taking pictures, too. We figured we had it pretty well covered. Little did we appreciate how fast the actual 2 minutes of totality would fly by.
When the sun was about 90% covered it was noticeably darker and cooler. Despite the warm morning I put on a sweatshirt. As I feared, I was actually more focused on my pictures than the approaching shadow. As the sliver of sun gets smaller and smaller, the final shadow rushed over us at +/- 2700 mph. The effect is very startling. We could hear oohing and ahhing all along the ridge (and from our own group). For a few seconds I was so focused on my camera that I initially forgot to take off the solar filter and just look up! Fortunately I realized, I needed to spend a little time looking around instead of just at the camera LCD screen.
The effect is amazing. The entire horizon glows almost like sunset as the light from the horizon, which is not in complete shadow, filters back to you. The sun itself glows out from behind the moon. We were only able to see a few bright planets, but the sky was remarkably dark – far more twilight than dusk. While nothing silly happened on our ridge, it is understandable why people want to get naked and worship the universe! I suspect we will be pointing the van toward Mexico or Texas on April 8, 2024.
Sara: With no camera responsibilities, I was able to sit back and just enjoy the scene unfold. It was fun to don solar glasses and check on the progress, while hanging out on a warm ridge. As the sky grew darker, the air cooler, and the grasshoppers went still, I lay back to watch the final minutes to totality. There are no words to express the wonderment I saw as I lowered my glasses to reveal the majestic beauty of the eclipse. It was hard to know where to look: the highlighted moon, the 360º sunset, the dark blue sky, or the unique light on the surrounding mountains. As totality passed, I first put the glasses back on, but then realized I should watch the lightening sky around me instead. The first rays of sun made a spotlight on us that grew outward as the shadow raced off to the east. The air warmed and the grasshoppers welcomed back the sun. I continued to watch the progress of the receding eclipse while Michael took pictures. In hindsight, I wish we had brought a colander or other creative pinhole things to play with the eclipse light during this time. It has been fun to see all the pictures of folks experiencing this amazing phenomenon. The beauty of the natural world is unbelievable and until you see a total solar eclipse, it is too!