|Solar Eclipse Watching|
Cooper Mountain Nature Park • Beaverton, Oregon
August 21, 2017
I’ve been wont to mutter recently, “Who the heck scheduled a solar eclipse on my day off??” Because of my limited amount of paid leave, I plot my days off for an entire calendar year in advance. When in December I scheduled my August 2017 Mental Health Monday
, I had no inkling that a solar eclipse fell on that day.
In the months ahead of the eclipse I read the hype – and mainly tried to figure out how to keep a low profile and not get stuck in traffic or some other timewaster. I was not planning to watch the eclipse at all. I’ve seen one solar and one lunar eclipse, and I wasn’t excited about another. When I told Debbie of my plan to avoid
the eclipse, she was shocked. “I’m picking up eclipse glasses from the Audobon Society today. I’ll bring back a pair for you!”
“Don’t bother,” I said, “I won’t use them.” She tried a couple more times to convince me to participate. I was adamant in my refusal.
To my surprise, though, on Friday I had a thought… maybe I could do some photography of happenings around
the eclipse… and I thought of what could be a perfect location: Cooper Mountain Nature Park
at the top of Cooper Mountain.
Beaverton is about 200 feet above sea level. My house on a hill is about 330 feet above sea level. The park near the top of Cooper Mountain is about 750 feet above sea level and has a nice, wide view of the Tualatin Valley and the Chehalem Mountains. And… Cooper Mountain is only three miles away – less than 10 minutes – from my home. I can get there without crossing a single major street.
My main concern was parking – if the park was full early, I’ll take that as a sign that photos were not meant to be. Monday morning I packed up my cameras and left the house shortly before 8 am, arriving at the park at about 8:05 am. The small parking lot was not quite full – there were still a half dozen or so open spaces in the main lot. The overflow lot was largely empty. Excellent.
Besides the cameras, I brought Kanna (my iPad) and Nano-chan (my MacBook Air) so that I could do some work while waiting for the eclipse. I had hoped to get one of the picnic tables under cover of the Cooper Mountain Nature House, but all the tables had already been claimed. I was a bit surprised that the full edge of the patio was lined with folding chairs. It didn’t even occur to me to bring a chair. No matter. I found a really good spot between the playground and the patio. I sat and did some writing on my laptop. Eventually I put everything away so that I could concentrate on photos.
Because my bags and computer were holding my place, I didn’t want to wander too far from them. I trusted that no one was going to grab them and run off, but I did want to keep them in sight and shouting distance. That limited my roaming to an extent – not a handicap, though. People kept coming. The overflow parking lot filled up, and people parked on both shoulders of Kemmer Road for quite a ways. People were still
wandering in at 15 minutes before totality. Crazy. Fortunately, there were open lanes for maneuvering. I tried to make sure I didn’t block anyone’s camera as I was flitting about.
I chatted with some of the other photographers and videographers. The video was a historical documentary. One photographer was photographing for THPRD
to show how popular their facilities are. (I do love THPRD.) At one point I ended up in a cluster of four Nikon DSLR photographers, which was cool. I didn’t expect Nikons to outnumber Canons. I talked with only one Canon photographer.
I brought both Nikon D810s. One was fitted with the AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E for more intimate photos. The other D810 had the AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G lens for wide views. The two-camera setup worked well, and I was able to switch quickly between the two.
While I never looked at the sun, I knew what was happening from all the exclamations and comments around me. “It’s starting!” “I can see it!” Children were laughing and excited. Adults were astonished. “It’s a crescent now!” “This is so cool!” The energy was infectious. It was like the neighborhood’s biggest, happiest block party ever.
The photo exercise was a bonus event. I didn’t have any expectations, and if I came away with even one decent photo, the outing would be successful. I wasn’t photographing so much that I missed the experience of the totality (well… here… totality minus some fraction of a percent…). One reason I chose Cooper Mountain was so I could see the orange sunset band around the entire horizon – and that indeed was pretty cool.
After totality, the sky brightened seemingly rapidly, and I didn’t stick around to take more pictures. I wanted to beat the traffic jam – and I accomplished that. On the drive back home I saw quite a few other groups who had watched the eclipse – including one large group in the middle of a field at a grade school not far from my house. I’m glad I didn’t choose that field – you couldn’t see any
horizon from there.
Of the 250 photos I took, I chose about 50 to post to Zenfolio as Solar Eclipse 2017
. One of the complications in processing the photos is that the camera autoexposed for all lighting conditions – making all pictures look like a sunny day. (That’s what happens when you have a camera that can see in the dark.) I had to counteradjust exposure to reflect the actual look in the minutes before, during, and after totality.
One thing… I neglected to sync the clocks on the D810s. The cameras run fast. D810/302 was 6m 29s fast, and D810/306 was 2m 37s fast. Fortunately, Lightroom has a function for bulk editing Capture Date/Time, and the function can do those offset adjustments down to the second. Whew!