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A Ring of Fire

“Zeus, the father of the
Olympic Gods, turned
mid-day into night, hiding the light
of the dazzling Sun;
and sore fear came upon men.”
Archilochus (c680-c640 BC), Greek poet

After S left Sedona, I decided to do a little “boondocking” (unplug from the grid as it were) and test the solar system . I also hoped clearer air would permit a bit of reasonable photography in Red Rock Country. Clear air was not in the cards due to the nearby fires so on May 20 I decided it was time to move on and time to go see the “ring of fire” in Grand Canyon National Park.

“….Sore fear was not upon me…” ☺

Now I expect some of you are thinking…”Geez, Stephen, this happened a week ago…” And, yup, it did-but I have been going like gangbusters in the Park all week – what with 3:30am (yes-that’s AM ) to photograph sunrise and then to hike/bike/tour the park before shooting sunset, I have simply not had time to post a report…

and, yes – despite it being covered by just about every news organization on the planet; despite the fact I know you saw images and broadcast footage from large observatories with complex and very high quality optics; and despite the fact that even NASA covered the event from space – I knew you wanted my take on things ☺

I was not sure what to expect so was pleasantly surprised to find out the NP had some big plans – NASA even sent an expert to give a lecture – the Park had a large number of “eclipse chasers” setting up shop in the tour bus parking lot for all to enjoy – outstanding !!

I had a great time talking to the eclipse chasers setting up shop for the big event – seems eclipse chasers – adventurers who travel the world to witness and document solar eclipses – had been waiting a long time for this one.

The May 20 eclipse was an “annular eclipse” – the “ring of fire” eclipse that I had read about – this particular eclipse hadn’t happened in 18 years and 10 days! (yup, it was back to science class for me that afternoon – 18 years, 10.3 days to be exact – not 9 not 11 but 10.3 ☺ )

Found out that the May 20 annular solar eclipse belongs to a family of eclipses known as Saros series 128, that began with it’s first event Aug. 29, 984. (yup – more geeky info!)

Like a total solar eclipse, an annular eclipse happens when the moon lines up between Earth and the sun. But in this case, the dark moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the visible disk of the sun, leaving a ring—or annulus—of fiery light around the edges- the ring of fire! Known as an annular eclipse, the event is the first of its kind to be visible from the mainland United States since 1994. The region won’t see another such eclipse until 2023. Wow, glad I was nearby for this one – I think I am busy in 18 years 10 days ☺

Despite having tried to do a little research about how to shoot the eclipse, I discovered I was woefully under-equipped – seems my idea of simply stacking filters on my lens to knock down the sun was not a good idea – asked around and found out I might fry my eyeballs or at least likely would fry the sensor – S#&% !!

But, ever the resourceful MacGyver ( K and M – Dad liked a TV show called MacGyver – about a resourceful hero type – so now it’s a metaphor for being resourceful ☺ ) — off I went looking for a DIY (“do – it – yourself” for you uninformed types ☺ ) astrologist who might have some “solar film” to DIY myself a lens filter.

Enter stage left – Dave the consummate DIY guy – and an all around cool guy and very entertaining astrologist – he had the folks around him all afternoon telling tales and showing stuff…

Dave scrounged around in the truck and came up with some film and cardboard; provided me a knife…and, then – enter stage right : my new photog bud – Kevin – has aircraft tape to create the lens filter that we would ultimately share to shoot the eclipse…very much the team effort…very cool…now we’re shooting

So while Dave entertains some tourists and Kevin and I shoot the eclipse, the large crowd that has gathered is having a ball looking to the heavens for this event – remember, it won’t happen for another 18 years 10 days ☺ so everyone is thrilled to be a part of it !!

Now this story would not be complete without a couple of footnotes –

Every good DIY assist deserves something in return –

Dave needed a tripod (forgot his in all the excitement!) so I loan him my extra tripod; Dave grabs a “C-clamp” as a camera holder and now he’s in business ☺

And, guess what – he’s shooting film; AND, he’s shooting with a Canon AT1 – yup, the same camera that was my very first one nearly 40 years ago or so – blogged about it awhile ago –very cool indeed…

Finally, I need to tell you that with solar flares, sunspots and an annular solar eclipse, the Sun has been the center of everyone’s attention lately. Next week – June 5 – all eyes (suitably protected, I trust) will be turned to the skies again to watch the last transit of Venus this century – and by the way – not to be outshone, the full Moon is preparing a little show of its own on Monday June 4th as a curtain raiser for the transit on the following day.

Guess it’s time to get the Meade telescope out to take a look – this time I’ll be viewing things from either Monument Valley or Arches National Park – guess I’m turning into a bit of an astrologist ☺

See you down the road –safe travels

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kevin #

    Awesome shots from the day Stephen! It definitely sums up the day, one to remember for sure! Dave was a character, the kind you just want everyone you know to meet. I’ll be checking out your other shots from the Canyon, it’s definitely a magical place.

    May 31, 2012
    • Stephen #

      glad you liked the post about the eclipse – was a great time – will be posting about the Grand Canyon over the weekend – take care

      June 2, 2012

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