When Sun Masquerades as Moon

It’s been an exciting day across America, with millions of people seeing a solar eclipse. (Please though, can we just call it the solar eclipse? Spare me “The Great American Eclipse”).

We decided not to travel to any of the packed cities, towns and campsites in Oregon, a few hundred miles to our south. We could have seen the total eclipse there (along with tens of thousands of other people), but we figured it wasn’t worth the risk of getting stuck without gas or spending many hours in a giant traffic jam. We may have been wrong. The jury’s out on that until we hear the travel stories.

The Seattle area had a respectable 92% coverage, so we went to a local park where we could observe wildlife and have enough open space to experience the light dimming. I had been trying to find out how dark it would get. I hoped that with the moon covering almost all of the sun, it would turn quite dark outside.

In fact, there was actually plenty of light. It was as if you were seeing through a filter, but you could still see everything well. That was disappointing, but it just shows how extraordinarily powerful the sun is – shade out 92% of it on a summer morning, and it’s still daylight!  The air did get very cool though.

Since we couldn’t acquire glasses or a solar camera filter in time and weren’t in the path of totality, I focused on one fascinating effect: the crescent “shadows” that are cast through trees during a solar eclipse.   It was as if the sun was masquerading as the crescent moon, and it was delightful.

The internet is already full of videos of crescent shadows from the eclipse today, so here is my contribution, before it’s REALLY old news:





As people gazed upward, the ground put on a show too, with a maze of intersecting and overlapping crescent-shapes under the trees.


Even a bench was covered with crescents.




And the boardwalk railing was decorated with intertwining crescents. Anywhere there were trees, the eclipsed light filtering through them had big chunks taken out of it. The photo below was taken six minutes before we reached 92% coverage.  As time wore on and the eclipse faded, the crescent shapes began to look more like a gibbous moon.The photos below on the white background were taken 15 – 20 minutes after the ones of the bench and railing – you can see the difference in the shapes.


I decided to try making images that were more abstract:








There’s my backpack and the white board I used for the three photos above. We brought the cardboard and a sheet of paper with a pinhole in it to project an image of the eclipse, since we couldn’t look directly at it. When we’d had enough of the tiny, fuzzy, indirect image, I grabbed the white board and started placing it on the boardwalk and photographing. It was amazing how different leaves and different angles created different shapes and patterns – but of course, it didn’t last long.

I’m sorry there wasn’t more drama. It’s obvious you need to be in the path of totality for that. Maybe next time. Still, the eerie, dimmed light, the distinct chill in the air, the birds’ atypical chatter, the shared conversations, and those crazy crescent shadows were all a nice diversion.






  1. There’s something fun about a collective experience, right? I’m mostly ambivalent about social media, but these are the rare occasions I’m actually grateful for it. We didn’t make it out due to work, so we’re enjoying everyone’s pictures. Love the crescent shadows!

  2. Nice crescent projections. I had hoped to see those again but our sky here in Ohio was overcast enough that it didn’t work. We could still see the eclipse itself through the cloud cover and filter.

    • Everyone gets different treats! 😉 I watched a little of a TV broadcast from SC and they also said the saw the eclipse through the the cloud cover – that old Sol is powerful!

      • That is so true. My wife and I stood outside during our ~83% maximum…such an odd light and stillness.

        I must say again though that your crescent projections are spectacular…the ones on the boardwalk and the bench are so big and clear. [You may detect a note of envy here 🙂 ].

  3. Beautiful shot, Lynn. I’m like your whiteboard idea. I’ve been using one at the Museum as a background for small objects that require a white background. It works well in the studio but I never thought it would have applications outdoors.

    • Years ago I photographed flowers and their shadows against a piece of paper outdoors, sometimes letting the garden behind the paper show a little around the edge. I really like the effect. I was thinking at the time about the thing itself, and representations of the object, and the tension between those. I.e., is one better, etc.
      This time I wish I’d planned ahead (but I didn’t even think of it beforehand). I could have brought extra whiteboards, or a bigger one, and I could have started earlier. How about a white sheet over that bench? I could have, I could have, I could have. 🙂

    • I’m so glad I saw information about it online before the eclipse. It gave me something to focus on other than the “main event.” I’m glad you appreciate it – of course you would, but there were people in the park who never saw it. In fact, I think my partner and I were the only ones how noticed it in this particular place. (Got to move somewhere where there are more artists!)

  4. Your personal view of the eclipse is much more interesting to me than the usual pictures, dear Lynn.
    The crescent projections are beautiful, and white cardbord is obviously underestimated photographers’ equipment, as you prove.

    • No, I know you missed this one but I’m sure there will be another before too long that you might travel too, if you’re so inlcined. I’m now tempted to travel to be in totality for the next one in America, in 7 years, in the Midwest and East. In the meantime, I enjoyed playing with the crescents and was sorry they were so short-lived. I’m glad you enjoyed this!

  5. These are fascinating photos and the best I have seen of the crescent shadows. We had 98% where we were west of Yellowstone 12 miles camped along a creek. We were just 75 miles from the path, but the highway leading south was a mess. Later in the evening a couple with small children showed up in their trailer to camp. It was 7 pm. had taken them 5 hours to drive that 75 miles. But…they had been in totality. I still liked our call.
    Nice post. Your writing is lovely and thoughtful.

  6. I love you images Lynn. We had a similar situation here in 1999. A totality would only be experienced in the South West of the UK. Many people in the country dashed to Cornwall. This was the only place in the country where you would see the totality. I didn’t live in Cornwall then and decided to avoid the traffic. I stayed in London where we got a similar experience to you. I did get to see the moon almost covering the entire surface of the sun whilst those in Cornwall, well, cloud cover put paid to any kind of experience for those that went to all the trouble. Under the cloud, it turned dark, and cool but that was about it. There’ll not be another total eclipse in the UK until 2090 so I guess I won’t be around for it. I hope that that generation gets a nice clear day. That’s if humankind is still here, given Trumps in the White House. :-/

    • Oh Adrian, what a crushing view… 😉 But I hear you, I really do! There’s another eclipse in 7 years in eastern US/Canada that I suppose I could get to…and what will things look like even then? He is scary and I am continually, deeply embarrassed being an American, by his words and actions.

      • You never know, I might be able to make a trip to the eastern US for that one.
        I sincerely hope that the checks and balances, that make the US political system work in the same way as democracy works here, will win out. I am an optimist, honestly. 🙂

      • We know how it happened, lets hope the Democrats can stop it happening again and for that to happen, we have to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, even those whose voice we find repugnant but are people who have real concerns, just like the rest of us, that may well have informed those views.

      • I guess what we really need to fear is that Trump is such a caricature of a man, he’s the butt of so much comedy around the world not least here in the UK, these people don’t usually don’t like other people laughing at them. He could just take on the mantel of a deeply misunderstood Bond villain and show the rest of us.. :-/
        I said I was optimistic! Must get off this.. 🙂

  7. Those shadows are extraordinary. Quite a different take on the eclipse than most photographers do. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the States when the eclipse happened, so I will have to figure out where and when it happens next time. 🙂

    • Well, I avoided the obvious because I could not get a solar filter for the camera and was afraid of harming the sensor…but you know, necessity is the mother of invention. The crescents were very beautiful indeed, and they disappeared so fast….

  8. These photographs are wonderful, Lynn, especially the shadows.
    We were not in the path of totality either, and even though it only seemed to cloud over for a bit, the sky became eerily beautiful, so we did not feel completely left out! 🙂

    • John Todaro (above) is in NY and saw crescents at 70%. I’m thinking SF maybe had a similar percentage of coverage? In any case, yes, we were glad that it wasn’t cloudy. The crescents are beautiful, and fun to look for in different places. The shapes vary depending on where you are in relation to the sun, what they’re cast onto, etc. If only this were a regularly occurring thing (OK it is, but not here!) then we’d be more practiced at capturing it.

  9. I saw the crescent shadows too. I tweeted and put a shot on FB but didn’t get it posted on my blog. I suppose it is old news by now, but I’ll probably post it today ‘for the record’. It was really cool to see the pattern repeated all across the street and sidewalks. And it did indeed get colder. I’m glad I didn’t travel for it. My husband and I went west and then north to the coast on Fri morn-Sat eve, so we traveled opposite the traffic for our mini-vaca this past weekend. I’ll have pics from the WA coast up soon.

  10. oh WOW…just so special a fleeting moment and you’ve captured it so wonderfully…i love the patterns and designs…it was a a dim light here…i just enjoyed the light inside the house it was sort of strange in a good way…my big dog wanted to be outside…such an amazing time…several of my photographer friends travelled into the US to capture the eclipse…nice that people share so we can all see…thank you! smiles hedy 😀

    • Like I said somewhere above, too bad I didn’t think of putting the white board down sooner, or think to bring a large white sheet or something – that would have been interesting! But I’m glad I did what I did with it – it was fun, running back and forth and seeing how the crescent shapes changed depending on coverage, angle, the tress, etc.

  11. Thanks for showing me (us) the crescents, Lynn. I’d seen them in the ’80s in Ohio, and I expected to see them in Wisconsin, where we were visiting Monday, but there was too much cloud cover. All we had was the NASA coverage on the computer since we didn’t have the special glasses. Boo hoo. But good news: Our part of Ohio will be smack in the totality in 2024. I will be totally prepared!

    • Boo hoo is right. I actually had a reservation ready for a room on the other side of the mountains in case it was going to be cloudy here – often it’s cloudy here, but not on the east side of the Cascades. Turned out the weather was about the same in both places. I know it’s not that easy where you live to choose your weather. Next time! I know you’ll be well prepared..

  12. Striking pictures, and I love the abstracts! I experienced a total eclipse in Kenya, around 1980 or so. Four of us, totally alone, waited in open and completely wild bush. First we saw Mt Kilimanjaro turn black as the shadow covered it and rushed towards us; and then there was real twilight and all the birds started singing. But, as you say, it was all too brief.

  13. I had to laugh at all the comments from folks who’d never seen such abstractions. It tickles me that I did see them, and photographed them. Maybe I have more of an eye than I’ve realized! As I mentioned, I thought your use of the white board was great, and I especially like the crescents on the bench. Do you think we could say that we both were on a crescent roll?

    • You shouldn’t doubt your eye!
      Oh, I can’t believe the pun – very painful, that one. 😉
      I may play with the whiteboard again one of these days – as I mentioned somewhere above I think, I did that years ago with flowers and their shadows, and it was fun.
      I’m thinking about you, as you know…glad the winds died down quickly, now it’s all about how much precipitation there is, right?

  14. I confess to not being aware of crescent shadows until this post, so many thanks for cluing me in Lynn. Your photos are far more interesting than those I’ve seen of the actual eclipse.

  15. Yours are some of the best photos I’ve seen of the crescent shadows. I love them! I can’t believe I was so busy looking up at the sun through my Chinese-made glasses, that I missed the shadows. At least I get to enjoy them here. 🙂

  16. These are very cool! I’ve never seen this kind of thing before, I love how those crescent shapes dance! The last eclipse I saw was a full one, I was working on a farm with no light pollution and we sat in the fields to watch it, when it went dark all the cows began to moo in the most eerie way! There really is an atmosphere to it..

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