#TakeMeBackTuesday – Solar Eclipse, South Australia


Currently, I’m in Chile viewing the total solar eclipse visible from South America, and it makes me hark back to when I traveled to South Australia back in December 2002 to photograph a total eclipse there. At the time, I was photographing landscapes for my book Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky and I thought this would be an amazing opportunity. I’d seen many technically excellent photographs of total eclipses over the years, but quite honestly they all looked pretty much alike. My objective became capturing the eclipse in relation to the Earth.

The solar eclipse that occurred on December 4, 2002, was noteworthy when viewed in South Australia for a couple of reasons. First, the eclipse was unusually brief at 25 seconds. Also, it occurred less than 40 minutes before sunset, so the likelihood of an obscured view was greatly increased because clouds generally stack up along the horizon at that time of day. To maximize my chance of success, I decided to find the precise position from which to film the eclipse by experimenting exactly 24 hours before the eclipse. I also decided to try two cameras for two very different perspectives, so I used both a wide-angle and a 70–200mm lens, enabling me to take full advantage of the eclipse’s late hour by incorporating the landscape.

Most eclipses occur earlier in the day when the sun is much higher in the sky. For this book, I wanted to establish the connection of the eclipse with the Earth. I wanted the viewer to witness the eclipse as if they were standing there next to me under the gum trees. Since I could not determine exposure until totality began, I decided to use matrix metering on an automatic aperture priority setting. When totality began, I would simply engage the shutter using locking cable releases, hoping that the entire roll of film would run continuously through the camera. This would have happened had I not made one final decision: to auto-bracket my exposures. I discovered, too late, that the camera would not continuously advance while on the auto-bracket setting. After just three exposures, both cameras stopped advancing. By the time I figured out what was happening, totality ended. Fortunately, I did get proper exposures for both compositions. After the critical moment of the full eclipse, I continued to photograph as the eclipse continued, switching to other lenses and film.

To create these images I used two Canon cameras, an EOS-1N and an EOS-1N/RS, EF70-200mm and EF 16-35mm lenses, Fujichrome Provia 400 film, and a Gitzo tripods. For the images of the setting eclipse on the horizon, I used an EF500mm IS lens and Fujichrome Velvia film.

2 Responses to “#TakeMeBackTuesday – Solar Eclipse, South Australia”

  1. Jean Tryon says:

    Re: Auto bracketing, take heart, Art. At least you didn’t leave the lens caps on! 🙂

  2. Ken Bednar says:

    Hi Art,
    Great shots that are much more interesting than just the eclipse sun alone. Thanks for sharing your over sight with the bracketing. It tells us that even those who have been doing it for a long time can forget the details in the heat of the moment. There is still hope for us neophytes!

    Have you thought about doing a few articles on travel tips? Traveling with your equipment, negotiating airport security, how to pack gear to survive baggage handlers, where not to travel because of unrest, how to determine the right equipment and clothing for the area you are visiting, vaccinations needed before traveling to some areas. Even how to find food and drink in areas of the world where you need to use caution. I’m sure you have figured out all of this years ago and those of us that are starting out could benefit from your experience.

    Ken Bednar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.