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Capturing Shadows: My Journey to Photographing an Eclipse

There are moments in life that stand out, not just because of their inherent beauty, but because of the journey it takes to experience them. For me, one such moment centered around a celestial event that I longed to capture through my lens: a solar eclipse. After years of anticipation, I finally had the opportunity to witness and photograph one, but not without its challenges and unexpected twists.

I would love to say my excitement was palpable and had me up all night, but I overslept. What immediately followed was a wonderful example of what it looks like to get showered, dressed, and in the car within 15 minutes. Armed with my camera gear and a sense of adventure, I set out on my journey, albeit late, to what was supposed to be the perfect vantage point. However, fate (or at least my alarm clock) had other plans in store for me. As I started my journey, I realized I left the very important solar filter at my office. Forty-five minutes later, after a quick trip to pick up the filter, I found myself in heavy traffic. Nintey minutes after that I finally made it south of Chicago with high hopes of sailing free and clear the rest of the way. I fully underestimated how many people would be doing the same as me, traveling the same day towards the path of totality. What was supposed to be a smooth drive turned into a nerve-wracking race against time.

As the minutes ticked away, I found myself anxiously sitting on a packed highway listening to a live broadcast announcing where the shadow was. I don’t often feel great angst, but as the shadow hit Texas, I feared I might miss the rare spectacle I had been waiting so long to capture, and tried to resolve myself to the fact that I was most likely going to miss it. Thankfully I trusted the soothing voice of Waze and took local roads for about 100 of my 200-mile journey.

In the end, I did not make it to my planned location, but miraculously I made it a mere 8 miles into the path of totality. Rather than looking for a private spot, I quickly parked in the first truck stop I saw and set my camera up amongst the eagerly awaiting travelers who paused their travels to witness the event. As quickly as I showered and hit the road, I set up my camera; hastily adjusting the settings as the moon began its slow path across the face of the sun. And then, it happened - the moment of totality.

With bated breath, I clicked away, capturing the fleeting beauty of the eclipse in all its glory. When I realized I caught the image I came for, the diamond ring, my excitement was louder than intended, capturing the attention of those around me. I found myself surrounded by fellow eclipse enthusiasts. I was the lone camera in a sea of phones, happily discussing equipment and settings. When I shared the images I had captured, their eyes lit up with wonder and awe. I spoke with moms, kids, a lawyer, a traveler from Denmark, and many others. In that moment I was reminded of the true power of photography - not just to preserve memories, but to inspire and connect people.

I have included a few of my favorite images.  The contact sheet shows the full capture, highlighting the fact that my crazy late start, forgetting my filter, and heavy traffic had me missing the beginning of the progression.  As frustrating as that fact is, it is eclipsed (pun intended) by the fact that I captured the diamond ring and totality.

As I reflect on my journey to photographing the eclipse, I am reminded that life is not just about the destination, but the experiences that shape us along the way. It was a day filled with challenges and setbacks, but also moments of pure joy and wonder. And in the end, it was all worth it for the chance to capture a glimpse of the sublime beauty of the cosmos.

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