Staring @ the Sun, 120

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Four Minutes in Texas



249 seconds before totality,
one of the many times the Sun almost came out.


It was quite a show even though tempered by clouds. We went where the climate said, but what we got was weather. That happens. Plan B is Spain, or Iceland, or Greenland, or Egypt, or Australia -- just some of the places to be visited by the shadow of the Moon over the next few years. Better luck next time.

Click any photo for a bigger version.

For a stand-alone gallery of all these pictures (and a few extras)
without the blurbage. Go here.



Here's a satellite photo of the United States made within about ten minutes of the photo above. Isaac McPadden has overlaid the path of the eclipse. See that shelf of clouds reaching inland from the Gulf of Mexico over Texas? We are there. This did not go entirely to plan.



Preparations and Messing About in San Antonio


Joel Harris and Steve Edberg provided a pair of briefings the day before totality at the Hotel Valencia. The first was for the half of the party staying at the Omni Mansion del Rio, the second (not shown here) for those staying at the Valencia.


Several of these elaborate lights adorned the ceiling in the conference room.


light 2

What every one of us, being a bit single-minded on the day before a total eclipse, probably thought if we happened to look straight up at one of them.


When visiting San Antonio for whatever reason, the tourist is obliged to see certain places, among them the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

dawn rw

The Riverwalk, in the quiet before dawn on Sunday morning.

alamo dawn

A short walk to the Alamo, just before dawn.


The Riverwalk on Saturday evening is a busier place (a blend of three exposures renders moving crowds more or less transparent so that you can actually see
the San Antonio River).



"Selena's Bridge" on the Riverwalk. Apparently there was a movie named "Selena" in which Jennifer Lopez gets engaged on this bridge right behind the Omni Mansion del Rio. I just liked the light -- the promising sunlight on the day before the eclipse.


Eclipse Day



The Uvalde County Fairplex with Twilight Tours participants scattered across the expansive grounds farther than the eye can see.



Getting our hopes up with every break in the clouds.



Just taking it all in.



A member of the away team pinned in place by the planet's powerful gravity using a filtered visor to observe the planet's moon as it passes in front of its Sun.



A large group, seriously equipped.



For others, binoculars suffice.



A two-some: just glasses will do.



Patrice and Joel Harris



Steve Edberg, holding down hard-core corner


So what did we see?

Each time the Sun appeared, I shot a fast burst of a dozen or so frames. I calibrated my camera's internal clock so I could use its timestamps to annotate the time to totality in the lower left corner.

The Sun never stayed out long enough to allow me to line up the tracking cameras or to focus critically. In the end I was hand-holding a 500mm lens to shoot an eclipse: crank the ISO as needed and use 1/4000s exposures. What else are you gonna do? (Do not follow that example if you have any alternative whatever.)

The image of the totally eclipsed Sun is a digital sketch, a confection representing pretty well what I saw for a few seconds near mid-totality when a thinner patch of clouds drifted over. I couldn't find the Sun in the long lens in the brief time available, and I probably couldn't have hand-held the camera for a long enough exposure anyway.













Not quite midway through our four-minute eclipse, this thin patch in the clouds revealed the vaguest, murkiest totality anyone ever almost saw. This is a drawing of that moment. As near as I can remember, and as some video I've seen confirms, this ghostly apparition lasted less than eight seconds.

I have some 360-degree video to work up, but, y'know, it's not as easy to get enthused about getting into that when the main event was clouded out. Some of it will be linked here by and by.



This is the after party: a BBQ feast (and our de facto group photo, all 400+ of us except the 8-12 folks eating in a nearby pavillion) before boarding buses to head back to San Antonio.


And finally, on a personal note, this is us:


On the left is Joel Harris, owner, director, ultimate poobah of Twilight Tours and my tent-mate at his first total solar eclipse (my third) in the Sahara desert. After returning home from Africa, Joel formed Twilight Tours, a specialized travel business to carry thousands of observers to dozens of eclipses from China to Easter Island to Texas. On the right is yours truly. The youngsters are in Mauritania for the eclipse on June 30, 1973, and we oldsters are in Texas for the eclipse last Monday. We seem somewhat bemused by our younger selves. Is anyone not?


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                   © 2024, David Cortner