The usual rule of thumb in eclipse chasing goes something like that:
A total solar eclipse is worth any and all effort (get ready to travel to the other end of the world!). An annular eclipse is worth a long drive or a short flight. And a partial eclipse is worth looking at if it is visible from your backyard.
Well, that is not entirely true, as you will see in the case of this partial solar eclipse. On November 3rd 2013, some lucky people on boats in the Atlantic or on land in certain regions of Africa got to see a total solar eclipse (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_November_3,_2013). For the rest of the world, the best we could see was a partial eclipse. However, from the East coast of the US, the eclipse would be ongoing at the time of sunset, making it possible to see a very unique sunrise.
I started planing for this trip about a year before the eclipse. The first step was to select a number of potential observing sites alongside the Atlantic coast and hope that at least one of these sites would benefit from clear skies on the day of the eclipse. This is where Google Maps comes in handy, allowing me to zoom and find potential spots, including lighthouses, bridges, iconic buildings, … My primary spot was the Frisco fishing pier (North Carolina). The pier was badly damaged by hurricane Earl in 2010 and pieces of it are now missing, making a perfect foreground for the pictures.
36 hours before the eclipse, I fly from Indianapolis to Raleigh. The weather forecast for Frisco, NC is pretty good so I wont have to drive 12 hours to one of my alternative observing spots.
24 hours before the eclipse: I’m on site, checking the parking and access to the beach. Everything looks fines, the Outer Banks is a beautiful place. It’s cloudy, but it should clear up sometime during the night. The weather forecast is slightly better for further south (South Carolina and Georgia) but I don’t feel like driving that far now that I’m on site.
4 hours before the eclipse: after a few hours of sleep, I check all the weather forecast websites a last time before heading to the beach. It’s still cloudy but some portions of the sky are showing a few stars and the strong winds are helping to clear up the skies.
I go to the beach, on the exact spot form where the sunrise will be lined up with the pier and wait… The skies clear up and I take a few pictures of the milky way.
Less than an hour before the sunrise: the weather forecast was correct, there is only about 5% of the sky that is occupied by clouds. But these clouds are exactly in the direction of the sunrise! I’m starting to regret my decision to not drive further south…
The sunrise approaches, and while I’m walking nervously on the sand, I notice a large dark band in the sky in the direction of the sunrise. I initially thought this was the shadow of the total eclipse (remember, for some parts of the Atlantic ocean the eclipse was total) projected on the atmosphere. Turns out, this was simply a crepuscular ray (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crepuscular_rays).
And after some more wait, it’s finally time for the sunset. But the clouds are still there, and I miss the first minutes of the spectacle 😦
And suddenly, the light intensifies, the Sun appears from behind the clouds. I quickly adjust the framing on my cameras, and start firing the first rounds of shots.
The Canon T2i is set up on the telescope (an Orion ED80, a short telescope that I can easily take with me on the plane) and the 5D Mark II is recording a raw video, using the special firmware magic lantern and a Tamron 70-300mm zoom. And while these two cameras are automatically recording images, I take another series of pictures with a Canon Rebel (350D). So, here is the result:
Concerning the video, I choose to show the spectacle at its (almost) real speed. So, no time-lapse speeding up the process. I know that most people wont take the time to watch a 3 minutes video of a sunset. But if you want to see this sunset pretty much the same way you would have seen it with your own eyes, just click ‘play’ and make sure you are watching full screen and High Definition! Oh, and make sure you have the volume up on your speakers (or earphones), my friends Iscaac Namias did a wonderful job with the music…