My wife and I took in the eclipse in Willamina, Oregon. I had intended on shooting from Victoria but we decided to take the trip at the last minute after hearing and reading the experiences of others who’d been under a total eclipse. Early on the morning of the eclipse, due to predicted overcast, we decided to get out of the coastal village of Otter Rock, OR where we were staying. We drove inland to Willamina, where the forecast was for clear skies.
At 7:20 we found a field with a few cars parked along the road. We pulled in to check the prospects and it looked to be a terrific location. At 8:00am, I set up my gear and Trina and I took our spots among a growing crowd, all patiently waiting for the show to begin.
Right on cue, the moon started to nibble into the sun. I started shooting every couple of minutes, bracketing exposures. It was fascinating to see the slow envelopment through 800mm optics. About half way through, we realized the temperature had dropped several degrees and the light level had fallen. I’ve never seen light like it. The shadows were still crisp, as on any sunny day but the light level was lower than on a cloudy day. It was most similar to the light of a full moon but brighter. As totality drew close, I prepared to quickly switch settings and pull of the filter. I had set partial eclipse settings to the custom 1 spot on my camera’s mode dial and totality settings to custom 2. At the last sliver, I pulled the filter off and set the dial to C2. I started shooting seven frame brackets just in time for the diamond ring effect and kept firing away all the through totality and the reappearance of the diamond. I then put the filter back on, changed back to C1 and shot the reappearing partial phases.
Seeing totality was absolutely awe inspiring for both Trina and me. I found myself a bit shaky as the sun disappeared and the temperature and light levels dropped to their lowest levels. I was glad to be shooting with a cable release because my unsteady hands at the time would certainly have ruined my shots. It was a much more emotional experience than I was prepared for, in a good way. I imagine it’s a bit like looking back at earth from space - you know what it looks like but you’re seeing it for the first time with your own eyes.
Totality is such an amazing sight but more than that, it’s incredible to experience it with people. I was focused on shooting but I could hear peoples’ reactions around me and could tell they were equally awestruck. It’s easy to see why people become eclipse chasers after experiencing one.
A huge thank you to Stanley, whose land approximately 30 of us invaded uninvited. As we waited to set up, I wondered who owned the land we were about to enter and whether we’d be welcomed or banished. Stanley showed up on his ATV just as the moon started to make its appearance and I think everyone held their breath. I walked over to introduce myself and gauge his reaction. He was simply glad that everyone was able to enjoy the event and asked that people be careful about fire hazards in the dry conditions. Everyone cheered. Print’s in the mail, Stanley!