Special eclipse report!

About a week ago I took a bus down to Tennessee to visit my sister and brother and watch the solar eclipse with them. I took my new 360-degree camera (a Ricoh Theta S) to try to film it. Here are some thoughts and observations from the experience, along with a few pictures I took.

I had a mild but annoying unease through the whole trip up to totality because I figured something would go wrong. Fortunately, pretty much nothing did go wrong. We especially didn’t have a storm, unlike the poor people in South Carolina. We did have a bunch of puffy white clouds that any other day would’ve been a welcome sky decoration. As it was, I eyed them suspiciously whenever we were out.

Totality would occur at 1:27pm. We set out at around noon and picked a nice spot, a little park nearby, and we had a picnic of Jimmy John’s in the muggy heat.

12:51pm. Our eclipse watching spot. My 360-degree camera is ready for its moment. #nofilter #eclipse2017

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

The gradually changing light quality and color was one of my favorite parts. It captured my sense of impending unreality. As I mentioned in my post the day before, surreality is pretty much my thing, so I was ready for this.

At around 1:00 our mom called from Texas, where she was watching the partial eclipse. She spotted the crescent shadows on their driveway after we told her about them. I was glad that even though people outside the path of totality missed the most dramatic effects, they could still catch some of them.

Abbie’s friends and their dog, who were also in the park, came by to say hi for a few minutes, and then they returned to their own watching station.

1:03pm. Eclipse crescent shadows. #eclipse2017

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1:08pm. Baby crickets ready for the show. #eclipse2017

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1:19pm. I don’t know if you can tell, but the shadows were fairly sharp, at least the vertical lines. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

At 1:22 I started filming and left the camera running for just over 10 minutes. Despite the camera’s mediocre resolution, the video turned out pretty well, and I’m glad I went to the effort (ordering the camera, returning the first defective one for a new one, bringing the tripod along, worrying). It turned out to be a nice way to relive the experience without needing to fumble with a camera while it was happening.

With totality approaching in mere minutes, I listened to the “Hymn of Dalamud” from the ominous ending scenes of the MMO Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, where one of the planet’s moons is plummeting through the atmosphere. It fit my mood perfectly! Meanwhile Michael was on his Kindle living through the lunar disaster in Neal Stephenson’s Seveneaves.

1:25pm. #nofilter #eclipse2017

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

1:25pm. #nofilter #eclipse2017

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

Abbie pointed out a planet off to the west–Venus, I’m sure–but that was the only one we could see. We did see parking lot lights turn themselves on.

About 50 seconds before totality, the shadow bands appeared. This was another of my favorite parts. They were much more visible and dramatic than I expected. We could see them over the whole ground, about 6 inches wide, moving a few feet per second from north to south. After totality they moved from east to west. They even show up in the video, but you can only really see them when it’s playing and not when it’s paused.

Then, totality. The moon’s shadow didn’t swoop in, which we probably would’ve needed a wide open space to see; the light just dimmed rapidly. We also didn’t notice any relief from the heat, maybe because the humidity trapped it all and the trees shielded us from any eclipse wind. We did see the light of sunset smeared across the whole horizon.

Totality was good, though I didn’t feel as present for it as I wanted to. There was just too much happening in my mind, but that’s typical of me. Two minutes is too short–I needed at least ten. One of the thoughts crowding my head was that I wished we had an unhindered view of the corona; the sun was behind the whispy edge of a cloud, though it could easily have been much worse. But I was very conscious that my siblings and I were all watching it together, and for me that too was a favorite part.

1:28pm. My Ricoh Theta S watching the three of us watching totality. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

In the end we passed through totality safely. The alien sky snakes spared us this time.

After that we rounded off the eclipse with some Fig Newtons and headed home. Then off to the airport for Michael’s flight, with surprisingly mild traffic, and finally a long nap for me. Eclipse day was exhausting. But not too exhausting for Abbie and I to stay up late playing Once Upon a Time.

My bus ride home the next day gave me a perfect chance to reflect.

I don’t know if or when I’ll post my eclipse video, but there are plenty of others. Here are a few good ones from that day. Feel free to get lost in the chains of related videos.

* ECLIPSE 2007 – Veritasium
* Solar Eclipse 2017 Full 4K 360º VR Experience In Casper, Wyoming – TIME (Pan around the video with your mouse or finger, or watch in a VR viewer such as Google Cardboard.)
* Totality | Capturing the Total Solar Eclipse – Columbia Sportswear
* A Balloon With a View (capturing the “Great American Eclipse”) – Andrew Smith
* Eclipse 2017: Through the Eyes of NASA – NASA (their full coverage across the whole country, almost 4 hours long)

I’m already looking back on this vacation as one of the memorable ones, like our trip to Mammoth Cave a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to the next eclipse over the US in 2024. That one goes through my hometown, so if all goes well, I’m hoping to watch the hole in the sky with family once again.

Edit (9/4/2017): Switched out the balloon video for a shorter, edited one with a bit more drama.

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2 Responses to Special eclipse report!

  1. Linda W. says:

    Thanks for this report! Great photos! So nice to see how it all went down. And baby crickets too! Nice!

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