After driving more than 2000 miles over 3 days to see the total solar eclipse in eastern Idaho, some would ask whether it was worth all that effort. HELL YES!!!
As an amateur astronomer of 25 years and a telescope company executive, I had heard all the stories and all the lore associated with eclipse trips, as well as having seen 4 or 5 partial eclipses over the years. That experience made planning pretty easy, but I just can’t articulate how awe-inspiring it is to see an eclipse in person.
We enjoyed mild weather, clear skies, and met a bunch of great folks along the way. I took along a 90mm telescope with solar filter, as well as my camera and tracking mount to make imaging the sun over time a breeze. This was critical as it allowed me plenty of time to look up. Even though we had a very generous 2 min and 17 secs of totality, it’s easy to get sidetracked photographing the event. I had started my stopwatch at the beginning of totality so I could manage my time, which was very helpful.
Researching camera settings was really key. Things happen so fast, you don’t have as much time to experiment as you might think. The Sun at totality was imaged at ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/40 of a second on a equatorial mount tracking at solar rate. Had I not been able to track it and was relegated to a fixed tripod, I would have shot at an ISO north of 1000 so I could have a shutter speed more appropriate for the 420mm lens I was using. The sun moves pretty fast as that focal length, so a high shutter speed would be needed to stop the action.
We were fortunate to land at a closed weigh station on the northwest corner of Sage Junction, ID very close to the center line of the path of totality. We met wonderful people with whom we shared the event. Being with a crowd did certainly enhance the experience. The sense of community, awe and excitement was clearly felt, especially as totality began and the crowd erupted in collective gasp, whoops and applause. If you’ve never seen a total eclipse, another is coming in 2024. If you choose to make the effort to see it, you won’t regret it. I’ll me there somewhere along with center line.