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.