Totality … A Mixed Bag

(Today’s post is a bit unusual. Because of the overwhelming activities and emotions surrounding experience my first total solar eclipse, the content is rather long.  So if you’d rather not read the “rest of the story”, please feel free to just scroll down to the photos)  :o)

Monday was a very mixed bag for me. Having never seen or photographed a total solar eclipse, I had waited a long time for the opportunity. And Monday was the big “E-Day”.

Local news had been forecasting “hordes” of people coming to Missouri for the rare eclipse, potential cell phone outages, turning interstates into parking lots, gas stations running out of gas, the entire gamut of possibilities had been heavily publicized for the past couple of weeks. So on E-day, I got up at 4:30am (the eclipse would not even start until a little before noon). I should note that I live only about 30 miles from the path of totality. Meeting some friends at 5:45am, and stopping by my younger daughter’s house at 6:15am, we began making our way north to our pre-determined location for viewing this spectacle (we were welcomed by some friends of my daughter/son-in-law … thanks Josh and Stacey!).

I had been on pins and needles for the previous 48 hours as the weather was very unpredictable, at best. As it turned out, when we arrived at our location the sun was visible, but a skyfull of clouds was rushing towards it. As eclipse time grew closer, the clouds covered the sun and we even got some rain showers. At “first contact” (when the moon first hits the sun) appeared, the clouds were still covering the sun. Drats! But about 10 minutes later, the rain stopped, the clouds began to break up and it was clearly evident that the moon was eating away at the sun! As it worked out, the skies continued to be laden with clouds moving by, but there were frequent breaks … enough of them to see and photograph the entire partial eclipse!

As totality approached (a few minutes after 1:00pm where we were located), the sun/moon were still visible, but clouds were still pouring towards the eclipse. And with totality lasting only about 2 1/2 minutes, I was really concerned that the totality portion of the eclipse would be totally hidden by the clouds. But I was wrong! The cloud cover was high, thin clouds and most seemed to part and flow around the sun/moon. Those that floated over the sun/moon were wispy enough that you could still see the process of reaching totality. This was what I had been waiting for … seeing and photographing all the interesting features of totality:  the chromosphere, Baily’s Beads, the 2 Diamond Rings, hopefully some Prominences, and the glorious Corona of the sun.

As totality began, I was like an octopus … photographing very quick bursts to capture all of these magnificent and brief segments of totality, while still looking away from the camera at times, so that I could “experience” the realness and uniqueness of this marvelous spectacle, firsthand with my eyes! But after shooting a bit, I quickly looked down to see how well the images were being recorded by the camera. Gasp! I saw nothing on the LCD! Trying a bit more, I got the same results. At that time, I remembered the “words of wisdom” that I often gave to others that I worked with on the techniques of eclipse photography, at my class earlier in the year: “If you have any problems with your camera, abandon plans and keep your eyes on the amazing sights above you!”. Doing just that, I watched in awe as the chromosphere showed around the moon, then some Baily’s Beads sparkled at us, then total darkness and the appearance of the glorious corona. After a short time, the second Diamond Ring came out. Although it lasted only a few, brief seconds, it was brilliant and perfectly formed! I just sat there, a tear in my eye, in utter amazement of the beauty that God set out for us to witness and enjoy!

As totality ended and the sun began to reappear, I leaned forward and began to photograph the second partial eclipse phases. But that abruptly ended when clouds overtook the sun/moon. It was never to be seen again. In fact, about 15 minutes later rain began and continued for a very long time (fortunately, I got my equipment down and packed away before the rain began).

So, although I didn’t get any images of the precious spectacles of totality, I did witness them with my eyes. And they will be forever branded into my memory! If you ever get the chance to witness a total solar eclipse, please don’t be satisfied with staying outside the path of totality to watch a partial eclipse … make the effort to get within the path of totality!

Here are some of my partial eclipse phases I managed to capture (Note: the sunspots that I photographed in “Sunspot, Baby” post, are still present and can be seen in several of the photos):

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

And I just loved the effects of the clouds floating over the eclipsing sun!

Clouds over the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Clouds over the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

And as eclipse neared, only a very small portion of the sun could be seen:

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Then, totality:

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017, captured by my daughter Amanda on her cell phone

After only a couple of minutes, the sun began to reappear from behind the moon:

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

At this time, the clouds built in so thick that you could not even detect where the sun was located, so this was the end of my shoot. Here is a shot that my daughter captured with her cell phone, showing my photographic setup. Note how I had to position the camera/lens almost straight overhead to capture the eclipse. This made it more difficult to photograph. Also, in my practice runs in the days leading up to the eclipse, I realized that I would need to stake down the tripod due to the elevation of the sun (to the right, you will see a backup setup that was covered with a tarp, in case of rain):

My setup as I photographed the total solar eclipse

 

By the way, here is “the rest of the story”. As soon as cloud cover prevented me from shooting, I was scratching my head and wondering what had happened to prevent me from capturing all the “neat” stuff during totality. After all, immediately before totality I had reset all the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture setting) to what theoretically would have given me the images I was after. Noting that all were set correctly, it suddenly hit me like a rock … I had failed to remove the solar filter on the front of the lens! Drats! I had become so involved with the beauty of totality, that I failed to remember to remove the filter over the front of the lens! I knew better … I had practiced the sequence several times in the week before eclipse. But the emotions of the moment won out. That’s ok, at least I was able to watch the glorious totality with my eyes. And I’ll try again in 2024, when we have another total solar eclipse across the U.S.!

Although I feel embarrassed that “Mr. Photographer” didn’t get any of the interesting totality images, I do feel very fortunate and appreciative that I could witness this rare event, in real time, with my own eyes! And like I said, there will be another opportunity in 7 years.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 2x TC (image cropped a bit further in post processing)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Wemberly gimbal head
  • ISO 200 to ISO 400
  • Exposure was made with heavy bracketting, so are not listed here

 

 

Posted in 2017, Astrophotography, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Sunspot, Baby

Ah, yeh … a familiar old tune from Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band. That’s what I was reminded of as I cleaned and checked out my camera equipment on Saturday afternoon, preparing for the big total eclipse today. A while back, I purchased some solar filter sheets and fabricated my own filter holders for two of my lenses. I needed to get out and check the exposure of the sun with the filters attached to my lenses. Photographing the sun and playing with the exposure, I noticed there were some sunspots on the sun, so thought that would make a nice blog post for today. Here is one of the images I captured of the sun:

Sunspots on the Sun

Our Missouri weather is still a bit “iffy” as to cloud cover. But the latest weather forecasts are looking a bit better. Although some high, thin clouds are expected around the eclipse time, the meteorologists are forecasting that breaks in the clouds are likely. Keeping my fingers crossed and praying for some breaks, especially during totality. And hoping to see these sunspots on “E-Day”! At least travel is not an issue for me … being so close to the path of totality, no real “travel” required.  :o)   Check back in a couple of days to see if I was able to capture some images!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 2x TC (image cropped a bit further in post processing)
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 400
  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter 1/500 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Astrophotography, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Bald Eagle Skills – Revisited

(Note: This post originally published in January 2010). I just returned home from my 2017 Perseids meteor shoot (posts on my trip to follow) and am now busy unloading the truck and preparing my photo equipment for the upcoming total solar eclipse (Monday, August 21), which I’ll shoot just a few miles from my home. Upon completion of the eclipse, I should be back with my online presence. In the meantime, please enjoy this post I captured in early 2010, showing the amazing skills of our national symbol … the Bald Eagle:

The more I watch/photograph bald eagles, the more I’m amazed at their skills. A little over a week ago, I drove to Clarksville, MO for a few days of photographing wintering bald eagles on the Mississippi River. With our recent frigid temperatures, there were quite a few eagles concentrated there. I also learned that the number of shad, the fish that the eagles usually feed upon at this location, were remarkedly reduced this year; so much so that the Missouri Conservation Department is concerned that there may be an insufficient quantity of fish there for the eagles to feed on. And the shad that was there was very small; I saw numerous fish 5-6 inches long being transported back to a tree by an eagle. There were some sizable fish caught (not sure of species), but they were few and far between. Interestingly enough, I observed two distinct behaviors of the bald eagles that I attribute to the low number of shad this year.

First, many times a bald eagle would swoop down and pluck a fish from the water (usually a very small fish, maybe 5-6 inches long) in their talons. Then, either they would drop the fish (because they were so small) or, they would immediately bend their head down to their talons and grab the fish with their beak. I had never witnessed this behavior before, although I have been to this location 3-4 times before this year.The second observation made was of the tremendous amount of piracy that the eagles were exhibiting. Piracy is not an unusual behavior for eagles, but it seemed like there was nonstop piracy going on. When I photograph wildlife, I always try to capture behaviors. Consequently, I worked hard at catching some of the piracy going on. I was pretty successful, but the conditions were not great. First, most of the eagle activity occurs at least halfway across the Mississippi River (and that’s a long ways!). Secondly, winter often yields a white cloud cover which makes for horrible exposures. But I did manage to capture one sequence that was pretty interesting. I’ve included a few frames of this activity below:

In this first frame, note the eagle carrying a fish in his talons, with 6 eagles chasing!

Six bald eagles chasing a 7th with a small fish

In the next frame, note that the eagle has dropped the fish:

In the following frame, note the immature bald eagle twisting and extending talons for the fish:

In this last frame, note the immature eagle has extended his talons and is grabbing the fish:

One mistake I made was I stopped shooting 1-2 frames before I should have! I would have loved to have the next frame or so, just to capture the immature eagle with the fish securely clutched within his talons! I know better, but the excitement of the moment took over and I missed “the rest of the story”. Oh well, guess I’ll have to just go back and try again!

 

 

Posted in 2010, 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Love Them Barnacles!

Still workin’ on capturing post-peak Perseids! Be back “live” soon. Here is a post from a few years ago showing a unique behavior of a spring cub Brown Bear.

Today’s post is about a behavior that I was able to witness and photograph during one of my trips to Hallo Bay, Alaska. One day, after we left camp for a day of bear viewing/photography, we arrived at one of the popular spots used by the bears for clamming at low tide. As we sat down and got comfortable, a brown bear (Ursus arctos) approached the group, along with her two one-year-old cubs. When they got about 50-feet from us, the sow began digging razor clams. One of the cubs sat down and watched mom dig up the delicacy, but the other cub wandered over to a large rock that was positioned right in front of us. The little guy then sat down on the far side of the rock and began eating barnacles off the rock, quite a crunchy snack!

I had been to Hallo Bay several times, but had never seen this behavior. But since this trip, I have also seen this behavior with black bears along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Here are a few images from that experience:

Brown Bear cub eating barnacles from rock at low tide

Brown Bear cub eating barnacles from rock at lowtide

Brown Bear cub eating barnacles from rock at low tide

Posted in 2017, Blog, Mammals, National Park, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: PhotoBombing the Photographer

Note: Busy trying to capture the Perseid meteors … in my online absence, please enjoy this comical event from 2012.

Today’s “Fun Friday” post comes from the roadside, on the way to the top of Mount Evans, from my 2012 trip. I had some more experiences with the Yellow-bellied Marmots this year, but not quite like last year. So, I thought I’d re-post it today, so enjoy!

As we neared the top, we ran across some Bighorn Sheep grazing on the side of the road. Pulling over, I photographed the sheep for a few minutes and then noticed an adult and 2 juvenile Yellow-bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventris) just up the road. I walked across the road from the marmots (to keep from frightening them) and worked my way up the hill. Once I reached some large rocks, I made myself comfortable and began shooting.

The pair of juveniles heard my camera’s drive working and sat up and looked directly at me:

Pair of juvenile Yellow-bellied Marmots watching me

I didn’t hear anything, but I’m sure one of the youngsters must have said to the other, “Look, a photographer … Say Cheeeeeeese!”:

Pair of juvenile Yellow-bellied Marmots "smiling" at me photographing them

Or, were they simply sticking their tongues out at me?

Yellow-bellied marmots are common at higher altitudes in the Colorado mountains. They are sometimes called by other, less familar common names, such as rockchuck, mountain marmot and Yellow-footed marmot. If you ever come across them in your travels, especially the juveniles, they are a “must see”! :o)

Be back “live” soon!  :o)

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A Strange Looking Eagle

I am currently charging up batteries, gathering photo equipment, and planning for capturing the annual Perseids meteors. Thus, I likely won’t have time to be on social media over the next few days, possibly up to a week. I am, however, going back through some of my older posts and preparing them for scheduled, automatic posting to my blog. If you want to keep up with these “oldies, but goodies” while I am busy with the stars and meteors, you can always check out my blog at:  www.showmenaturephotography.com (and click on “Blog” on the menu across the top of the page). I hope to be back “live” in a week.  :o)

(Note: this post originally published in December, 2010)

Images in this post are from a trip to the Chilkat River Valley, outside Haines, Alaska. The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) featured in this post seems to be “stuck in a time warp”. Bald eagles usually don’t develop their white heads and tails until their 4th or 5th year. This eagle has a “half-developed” white head, but also has some white wing feathers, which is not typical. After shooting these images, I made a stop at the Bald Eagle Visitor’s Center in Haines. Talking to one of the volunteers there, I found out that this bald eagle also visited the Chilkat River Valley the year before my visit … and in the exact same plumage as I found him. This was confirmed by a photo taken the previous year and used in a photo calendar that was at the center.

Here are some images I captured of this unique individual. In this first image, you can see the distinct white head at the front of the head, but the back of the head is a definite salt-and-pepper coloration of the subadult bald eagle:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

In the next couple of images, you can see the other major oddity of this individual … white wing tips!:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

Two-toned Bald Eagle

And in this final image, our eagle is about to put his talons into a fresh salmon dinner:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

What causes this strange-looking eagle? Most likely, the eagle is “leucistic”. Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin and other pigments from being deposited normally on feathers, resulting in pale or muted colors on the entire bird. Albinistic (albino) birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. In the past, I frequently observed a leucistic red-tailed hawk that lived not far from my rural Missouri home, but I haven’t seen it for several years now, so it likely met it’s demise.

Reminder: I will be presenting an informative program on the upcoming “Great American Eclipse in Missouri” tonight at the Harrisonville, MO branch of the Cass County Library. It is free of charge and starts at 6:00pm at the library. The first 75 attendees will receive free eclipse viewing glasses. If you live in the area, stop by and say “Hi”.

 

Posted in 2010, 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Artichoke, Anyone?

I always look forward to seeing this tall, yellow border growing around the perimeter of all the wooded areas on my rural Missouri land … the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). This wildflower becomes a prominent feature of my rural landscape every summer. So refreshing to look out and see the “sea of yellow”. Here are a few images I captured last evening:

Jerusalem Artichoke wildflower

Jerusalem Artichoke wildflower

Jerusalem Artichoke wildflower

And this next one appears to be trying to hide from my camera lens:

Jerusalem Artichoke wildflower

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 180 mm, f/3.5 macro lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Studioball ballhead
  • ISO 200
  • Aperture f/4 (top 3 images) and f/8 (bottom image)
  • Shutter 1/4 sec. to 1/8 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Blog, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: A Rare Bird Flyover

Imagine the surprise of hearing a sound like someone mowing in the woods behind my rural Missouri home, then looking out and seeing this rare “bird” flying over!

Ultralight "Plane" in flight

Living in the country, I shouldn’t be surprised. I have gone outside many times and seen some rather “unusual” birds flying over, including the Stealth bomber (a really cool experience when I see one!), A-10 “wart hogs”, military helicopters, etc. Whiteman AFB, who houses our fleet of Stealth aircraft, is only about 75 miles or so to the east of my home. But seeing this small, home-made craft was definitely a different experience! And just yesterday afternoon, I heard a plane that seemed to be trying to land on my roof! Going outside, I was given a front row seat to my personal airshow … a biplane was flying back and forth over my home, doing loops, inverted flybys, and giving me a great view of the entire exhibition. I’ll post some of those images once I get them downloaded and edited.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark 2 body
  • Canon 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 200 (top photo) and ISO 800
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all)
  • Shutter 1/250 sec. to 1/1,000 sec.

 

 

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Early Summer Spiderwort

Today’s post features a few images I captured back in late June while in the Des Moines, Iowa area, participating in the ArtsFest Midwest Art Show. On one of my free days, I drove to the nearby Neil Smith NWR. While hiking around the area, I found some nice patches of Spiderwort wildflowers in bloom:

Spiderwort wildflowers

Spiderwort wildflowers

Spiderwort wildflowers

If you live near Des Moines, I highly recommend a day trip to the Neil Smith NWR.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark 2 body
  • Canon 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 200 (top photo) and ISO 800
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all)
  • Shutter 1/250 sec. to 1/1,000 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Common Visitors

Today’s post features one of the most common butterflies that visit my rural Missouri butterfly garden, the Fritillary butterfly. Most of the time, when it’s sunny and warm outside, I can walk outside and see at least a couple of Fritillary butterflies busy soaking up the sun and seeking nectar from the plants in my butterfly garden. They seem to always gravitate to the Purple Coneflowers for nectar. Here are a few of my favorite images I captured over the past few days:

Fritillary butterfly on a Coneflower

Fritillary butterfly on a Coneflower

Fritillary butterfly on a Coneflower

Fritillary butterfly on a Coneflower

My favorite visitors, as I mentioned in previous posts, are the occasional swallowtails. But the Fritillaries are by far, the most common. And their beautifully patterned wings are always a joy to watch/photograph!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark 2 body
  • Canon 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 200 (top image) and ISO 500 (all other images)
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/1000 sec. to 1/2000 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Blog, Butterfly Photography, Insect Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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