Eclipse on the Lost Mesa

When I heard that there was going to be an eclipse going to be happening and it would be visible from west Texas and New Mexico, I knew I was going to have to go west to see it.  Looking at the track of it on NASA's site I saw that the Otero Mesa would potentially be a good place with the eclipse peaking right near sunset.   I have never photographed an eclipse before and my first thought was to see if somehow I could work in rock art with it.  

That would mean finding the right rock art with a good view west and using a wide angle lens.  That was probably counter to how most photographers were going to do it with longer lenses.  Just another chance to try things differently.

I spent some time looking at images of other eclipses and saw that most people were just taking an image of the sun and very few with any kind of foreground.  Even fewer with a wide angle lens.  One type of picture that I saw that intrigued me was the series of images showing the path of the eclipse across the sky.  I wondered if it might be possible.

I arrived on the Otero Mesa on Friday the 18th, giving me two sunsets to find the right piece of rock art and to confirm the location of the sun at sunset.  As usual on the mesa it was clear and windy. Temps swung wildly too.  It would close in on 100 in the heat of the day and then get down into the 50's at night.

After checking out several of my favorite panels and finding some new ones with potential, I decided on Sunday afternoon to go with a classic of the wind and storm gods.  I set up and watched the sun sink lower in the sky.  I went with a strategy of one camera set up, focused, and did not move it.  Then I had a second body with my 70-200 on it with a plan of using live view to try images of the sun.  With a high shutter speed, live view, and being smart, I hoped to get an image without actually looking at the sun.

I waited.

When the sun entered the image on the camera with the wide view I started making images every couple of minutes.  I had to vary the exposure greatly and found that f/22 at 1/8000 worked very well to capture just the sun.  I also went down to about 1/1000 of a second too.  As the sun sank closer to the horizon the eclipse started.

The sky got darker and the light looked strange on the land.  The wind died down and it got still.  Coyotes began to howl!

Mystical rock art, eclipse, coyotes howling.  Wow, it does not get to be a much better experience than that.

I photographed, watched, and listened to the show as the sun sank below the horizon while the eclipse was still happening.  When it did the coyotes stopped.

I thought I might have some good captures and I hoped I could blend several images to capture the entire scene.  I worked up the images and after several attempts to get a blue sky have the image at the top of the page here.

My first eclipse.  I am already looking forward to the next one in 2017!  I see that one will pass over Yellowstone.  I wonder if it would be possible to get Old Faithful erupting during it.   Hmmmmnnnnnn, I sense a road trip!


MrPixure said…
Great work, my friend. Wish I'd been there with you...

Curious, the foreground rocks and petroglyphs appear lit - not shadowed - did you do anything there? Reflector, fill flash, etc.?

Whatever - the shot has a mystical beauty all its own.
Darren said…
Thanks Kipp!

This is s blend of several images. The rocks are all off an exposure done just for them. All the other images would have the rock as a big black block as they were for the sun.

It took some tweaking for the right images and getting the sky blue but finally I got that right and then merged with the foreground.

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