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The Solar Eclipse On The Fly and Hector Sanchez Is A Badass!!

While I was writing my post yesterday, the solar eclipse was about to take place and I found myself completely unprepared. Not only had I forgotten that it was going to take place, but I was also unprepared with battery options. The Canon 1D Mark II N takes these HUGE proprietary batteries that are rechargeable using a massive charger that looks like it should be recharging a car battery and not a camera battery. When I purchased the camera, it came with the original Canon battery and charger. Knowing that I would need a few backups, I went ahead and jumped on eBay and found some relatively inexpensive aftermarket batteries. When I still had my 40D, I had great luck with aftermarket batteries and they never failed me. These particular aftermarket batteries for the 1D Mark II N are CRAP!! Not only do they hold a minimal charge when just charged, but they won’t hold a charge for more than a few days when storing them in your bag. They are total crap and now I have to find myself some Canon branded ones to keep in my bag. Oh well…

So, here is the eclipse about to happen, and the aftermarket battery that was fully charged yesterday in my camera was dead. Not only that, but the charger that had my Canon branded battery and the other aftermarket had been unplugged from the wall. When this happens, the charger drains the fully charged batteries into submission. I had a tiny amount of power on the Canon branded battery and I would have to make due. Why go through the angst all over again on the blog? Well, I’m hoping that I can convey the lesson to be learned, which is ALWAYS KEEP A CHARGED BATTERY HANDY. You never know when the perfect photo opportunity may come up.

DON’T BE LAME LIKE ME!!!

So, I run outside with my weak-ass battery in the camera with my trusty Tokina 100-300mm (it’s the only lens I own, so I really didn’t have a choice) to photograph the eclipse. But, wait!! You can’t look up at the eclipse!! You can really screw up your retina by looking directly into the sun!! So, I’m standing outside my door with my camera in hand asking myself “WTF AM I GONNA DO?!?!?” Well, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again. Photography is all about improvisation, so you always have to be willing to try new and uncomfortable things to get the image you want or any image at all in certain circumstances. Well, maybe I didn’t say it yesterday, but I’m saying it now. So, when I say tomorrow that I said it yesterday, you’ll know that I was for real.

That’s when it hit me like the Hector Sanchez home run in the top of the 14th a few minutes ago to win the game 4-3 against the Brewers in Milwaukee. I had taken a welding course at the local community college a few years back that required that I purchase eye protection that I was certain would be sufficient for staring right into the sun. I tracked the welding goggles down and made sure to install the gold coated lens for TIG welding, which is almost as intense as direct sunlight. I ran back outside and tested it out to be relieved that it would be enough protection. But, what the hell was I going to do in protecting my eyes if the camera’s sensor would be susceptible to the intense light and probably wouldn’t register more than a bright white image???? A little more improvisation, and I was able to fashion the welding goggle in front of the lens while I was viewing very carefully from behind the camera with one eye and the second closed.

Did it work? I would say yes. You might say that it looks like crap. But, that’s the great part of photography. Would I have rather had a better thought out plan along with a fully charged battery with a tripod setup? Sure, but again, this is a lesson in improvisation to make the best out of the situation. I’d always opt for a pre-set configuration with well thought out plans for a photo session, but sometimes life hands you lemons. I take the lemons, throw them away and pour myself a glass of root beer!!! You heard it here, folks!!

On top of having this beautiful celestial event, Pacifica was fortunate enough to have our typical blanket of thick fog that was rolling in and out throughout the entire show. It helped out a lot, since at times it appeared that the fog was enough to be able to look directly into the sun while having an effect of softening the potent light. Of course, I wasn’t looking directly at it, but it was tame enough that I could have. Oh, and before I forget, I had to manually focus on these, since the lens was having trouble autofocusing due to the additional element I was holding in front of it. I just went with it and so should you!!

In the photos below, I employed the technique stated above where I placed the welding goggles in front of the Tokina lens and framed the image while looking through the viewfinder. I tried out a few camera settings before firing away, while keeping in mind that I had barely enough charge to snap off a hundred images. These images were taken between ISO 400-800 and shot between 1/20th and 1/100th of a second at apertures of f/4.0. Two of the images show a gold aura around the eclipsed sun in its various stages and is very evident in the rolling fog. This was not an effect added in Photoshop, but the result of looking through the gold-plated lens. The green tinged photo was when I opted to photograph the sun through a gas welding lens that I also had handy. As you can see, the sun is way more intense and there is a bit of detail missing when compared to the others. Gas welding doesn’t happen at the temperature range that TIG welding happens, which is why a lighter shade of protection is required.

Post processing of these images in Photoshop only included a little contrast adjustment to correct the welding goggle lens flare that was filtering in from the sides that didn’t completely cover the front of the Tokina lens hood. Also, a bit of structure adjustment was performed in Photoshop to bring out the texture of the rolling fog and add to the dramatic image. I hope you enjoy these, and I welcome your commentary as always.

Tomorrow we’ll return to my New York City trip photos and I think I’ll share my Brooklyn Bridge images, but I’m sure you’ll agree that this small departure from the NYC photos was worth while…

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