turn around, bright eyes

For the 2017 eclipse, where we were in Hermann, MO, we took photos with our humble phone cameras using the lenses removed from a spare pair of eclipse glasses. And they were… not awful? Not award-winning but reportedly better than some experienced photographers got with fancier equipment.

(The moon approached from different directions in 2017 and 2024.)

The partial eclipse photos at least show almost what the eye sees: a fairly clean and clear portion of the a smooth, circular sun, whether with a small bite removed or just the thinnest crescent. It’s almost unreal. The totality photo with no filter is much less good, a bit of a blurry and pixelated mess compared to the bizarre clarity of what the eyes see during those moments. But not bad for a camera lens smaller than a pinky nail, right?

You’d think a more modern phone with “better” cameras and “enhanced” software would take better photos. It did not. Orange cloudy pixellated blobs with weird bands of brightness that look like compression artifacts. The sun maybe not even round but weirdly ovoid. I took something like 130 photos (the SolarSpot app can take them in bursts) and a video, and… it’s mostly crap.

Here are the best of them, both taken at totality without the eclipse filter:

(The lights came on in the soccer field in Perryville right before totality; I’m not sure that explains the amount of light seen on the horizon, but it certainly seemed darker than this in person.)

I have to wonder if the camera software now is trying too hard to adjust for unusual lighting conditions, resulting in worse eclipse photos. And/or maybe the quality of the extra eclipse filters made for phones wasn’t up to the level of the ones for our eyes. Or both? Anyway.

Photography aside… it was an incredible thing to witness. Some words that come to mind are awestruck, holy, inspiring, humbling, unreal, wondrous, joyous. Atavistic? “Amazing” is so overused but yes, struck with amazement. Apparently there’s an effect where people who’ve just experienced an eclipse among other people are more likely to use “we” words than “I”, and some psychological studies were among the other science being done yesterday. I can certainly see how people in ancient times would have been terrified by such an event, but with it being predictable and understood, it’s very much a thing to marvel at.

It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to drive to the soccer complex in Perryville, and we went pretty early to make sure we’d secure a spot. There was plenty of parking available then, and a few spots even within an hour of first contact (they filled up by the time things were underway though). Apparently we choose our spot well, because further south in Cape Girardeau (a bit closer to the center of the eclipse path) there was a line for the parking area before 5 AM.

The drive back was over 5 hours. The GPS tried to direct us to a side road to save half an hour, but there was an accident which both halted traffic and forced us back onto the highway. Also we’ve both got some sunburn (mine is limited to my neck, thanks to my big floppy sun hat, so I don’t have post-sun headache on top of still recovering from this respiratory infection). Still very much worth it!

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