Over the last 18 years eclipses have taken me to places that I
likely would never have gone on my own. Who would have thought I
would be standing on a frozen river in Svalbard, a lake in Novosibirsk,
a farm in Zambia, or riding a ferry in Sierra Leone. Yes there
have been other places that could easily satisfy a bucket list (e.g.
Pitcairn Island and Easter Island). And some of the other places such
as Cairns Australia or Shanghai China are places that I have visited
This time was very different. It was a trip north to Oregon
(another place I had been before). In fact, I suspect that at one
point we drove through Madras as a part of a family vacation.
The lack of long international travel and the way TravelQuest International
chose to organize this trip allowed me to bring first rate gear
including a heavy mount, computer, and an observing table. My
goal was to exceed the quality of the work I did in Libya in 2006. A goal I believe
Our group based itself in Bend which, without traffic, is about 1 hour
south of Madras. We spend Saturday night in Portland and
traveled through Madras on the way south. We had been monitoring the
preparations in Madras. Still I was amazed by what we saw as we
approached the town
The plan was to leave Bend at 4 AM on Monday. Needless to say
this seemed risky, but seeing the number of people who heeded the
advice to arrive early gave us some confidence.
When the appointed time came our buses rolled out of their hotels and
headed north. Rick
Fienburg traveled ahead and reported no delays. That was our
experience as well.
Shortly after 5 AM we arrived at our viewing site comfortably before
dawn. Our trip leaders advised us to delay the setup until dawn as the
field was rather treacherous in the dark.
Once the sun rose we could see just how beautiful the site was.
There were clouds of smoke to the south, which at time, did not seem
TravelQuest arraigned for us to view the eclipse from the soccer field
at Jefferson County Middle School
This was a perfect site!!! Our group had exclusive access to the
site. Once it was light we moved our equipment onto the
field. The grass was rather long, but it felt like walking on a
pillow. No problems setting up equipment.
Across the field with my equipment in the foreground
The traditional pinhole sign Photo courtesy of Dave Darrah
Chris from FPOA and myself
Another of my setup
We had plenty of time to get setup. I did have a couple of
emergencies. Once the mount stopped tracking. After C1 I
noticed the focus was soft. So it was a rather start and stop
morning with periods of big smiles and times of near panic.
Smoke was also an issue. The cloud we saw at sunrise became
thicker and headed over us. Fortunately by C2 it had largely
past. I think some of what I see in the diamond ring pictures is
due to smoke (or that's my story).
The exact location was 44° 38' 5.020" -121° 6' 30.530" 731 meters
Movie of Eclipse
Movie of Totality
As I say in the movie I have seen several montages of the
eclipse. While an effective way of presenting the event it lacks
the ability to convey the rapidly changing views at C2 and C3. I
think this movie makes the point more effectively. It can also
serves to document all of the various exposures I used. The base
for all exposures is f 6.3 ISO 200 and then varying the shutter as
Images of the Eclipse
Here are the best of the best. The Corona images were used in the
1/350 ISO 100
2nd Contact Diamond Ring
There were no prominences visible at C2.
2nd Contact Bailey's Beads
In 2010 I made capturing the beads a goal. Unfortunately without
full computer control I did not do a very good job. This time I
nailed it. .... and they were very good beads.
3rd Contact Prominence
While C2 was a disappointment in the Prominence department C3 more than
made up for it.
C3 Bailey's Beads
Again the beads did not disappoint
High Dynamic Range
Pictures of Corona
Dynamic Range is a processing technique to overcome the limitations
of a camera's limited dynamic range (the ability to represent different
levels of brightness). While cameras are fine capturing uniformly
lit outdoor scenes, they fail badly when the image contains very bright
and very dim portions. Since electronic displays only permit 256
levels of brightness, HDR will sort through the image brightening dim
sections and dimming bright sections to form a compromise image.
HDR can work very well as shown in the example in the Wikipedia
pages. Eclipses are notoriously difficult since the brightest
and dimmest portions are many orders of magnitude apart. Buried in that
range of brightness is the detail our eyes see.
Some astronomers such as Druckmüller
use special tools and techniques. For the rest of us we try to
get something that approaches what our eyes can see.
The basic technique is to capture the image at a variety of
exposures. Software will then select what portions of which image
to use in the combined image and how bright those components will be.
I got a good image of the inner corona the first night. The outer
corona was more difficult. Also even Druckmüller's images do not
adequately display the vast difference in brightness between the
prominences and even the brightest portions of the corona. Others have produced
good results on this eclipse. I finally got a result I am willing
I present my HDR of the inner corona two ways. The first is as
produced by the tools. The section is with the prominences
Photoshopped (although I really used Pixelmator) in. This is
closer to what we saw even though it looks fake.
The Outer Corona presented more of a challenge. After some
initial failures I finally got the entire image into PixInsight. That
is the tool I use for my nighttime images. It took almost 2 1/2 weeks
after the eclipse before I finally hit on the right recipe to get a
After about two weeks of false starts I finally hit on the way to bring
out the outer corona and preserve most of the inner. Above is a
slight modification of the former HDR3
image I posted on 9/8. I felt the colors were too saturated
in the HDR3 so I used Luminance (detail) from that image and combined
it with the Chrominance (colors) from the result of applying the ln equation as described below. The result
is closer to my memory of the actual corona color.
The moon and prominences are from an a different version chain so it is
Note the triple helmet streamer at 12 o'clock.
Showing the moon is an aesthetic decision. I did versions with a prominent moon. In the end I decided that
providing a little moon was better.
This HDR created by Photomatix
highlights the structure in the outer corona even though it is not
itself an aesthetic picture.
I always enjoy adding a satellite picture to give the eclipse
context. In this case this is a portion of the GOES-16 Weather
How Did This One
Every Eclipse is unique. Still one is left with an impression
afterwards of what was special about this one. So here it goes
The eclipse was more than 40º above the horizon. In past
experience that diminishes the effect of the approaching shadow.
Compare the shadow in this movie verses 2015 or 2008 where the sun was lower in the
sky. It was more like the more diffuse shadow of 2016. Smoke also played a
role in making the shadow less distinct, but it could have added to the
effects of the sunset
The prominences were mostly underwhelming. The large one at
12 o'clock being the exception. The eclipse in 2006 was also in a period of low
activity but had better prominences. Four years later in 2010 there was only one significant
prominence as this year. I cannot compare 2008 and 2009 since I did not
do magnified images either time. Contrast this to 2013
where they ringed the sun.
Best for last. We come to eclipses to see the corona.
This was the best yet! I thought the 2016 corona was excellent
due to its curving structures. The 2006 corona is now on my
business cards. This year there were significant helmet streamers
at 7 and 2 o'clock (visually) and another at midnight. Very
distinct solar brushes as I commented in my training videos. This is
the first eclipse I viewed through binoculars (before I used the camera
viewfinder). The images above capture the detail that I saw.
The TravelQuest Trip
The trip this time was an easy
flight from home. It started in Seattle where my nephew
We then traveled to Portland.
From there it was the setup for the eclipse. Overnight in
Bend. An early departure for Madras😴 . A 5
hour return to Bend 😩 .
We then returned to San Francisco via the coast.
Just a limo at the end of the trip instead of a 24 hour flight (and
then a limo).
Warning - Propeller Head Stuff
As a scientist and engineer I feel it is important to document my
process. The sections below can be safely skipped by the casual
reader. On the other hand if you are interested in how I produced
the images then read on.
For this eclipse I used an Orion
Skyview Pro mount. This is much, much heavier than anything I
had used before on a group trip. The tour company allowed extra
baggage this time. I packed it in a specially built cardboard box
for the plane flight to Seattle. The head rode in my 20" cube
that has been a frequent companion.
I controlled my imaging with Solar Eclipse Maestro as I said I would in
my movies. The laptop was synced with time right before I left
Bend. My experience is that it was never more than 0.5 seconds
Processing was done with Canon Digital Professional tools, Pixelmator,
Photomatix Pro, and PixInsight. The movie was created with Final
Cut Pro. I used a MacBook Air and Mac Pro 2013 for processing.
The HDR images were created by Photomatix and PixInsight directly
reading the raw images. The pictures were first converted by the
Canon tools and then touched up with PixInsight.
How I processed the
In my movie Why
is this Hard? I describe the problems of imaging an
eclipse. The range of brightness in the image was well above
anything I had deal with in night time images. In the unmodified
linear HDR the prominence at 12 o'clock had a brightness value of 0.5
(in range from 0.0 to 1.0). The dimmer parts of the corona were
values closer to .0001. The normal Pixinsight tools that compress
dynamic ranges were just not able to produce an image that showed
both. So I had to get creative. I produced the image with a
couple of tricks
First instead of using HistogramTransformation I flattened the
image with the equation
Why ln? I tried with a more
conventional log10 but that did not produce the correct
range of final brightnesses. Natural log did.
The image had significant background that was hiding the features
of the corona. I used MLT to extract the residual layer from a
copy of the image after removing the first 7 layers of data. The
result was a good model for the background. I then subtracted some of
that from the image. The result left the structures in place with
I added in the prominences from a linear (non-stretched) image
Everything you see is from the original image. No Photoshopping
On consumer displays you can only distinguish 256 levels of
This is what the image looked like
after all of the images making up
the HDR are combined. The model represents all of the brightness
values as a 64 bit floating
point number ( range 1.0 to 0.0). It can easily encode vast
differences in brightness. As it processes the images it figures which
image should contribute which pixel and how that pixel should be scaled
so it has the correct brightness value relative to the brightest pixels.
The corona is there (mathematically), but
the values are all small enough that they are all represented as
on your display.
difficult is it to display all of the values at once? If we try to
just display the 64 bit brightnesses on the screen we are, in effect,
multiplying by 256 and then displaying the result. Thus we can
resolve differences that are at least .004 in brightness or about a
order of magnitude more than the smallest value. In fact, most of
the corona is dim enough that on this scale it resolves to the smallest
To show this I have coded brightness values in gray. Note the largest
area would be less than 1 and thus would appear black. Most of
the corona would be too dim to display. The inner circles are for
counts of 1, 2, and 3.
Clearly one has to be more creative to see what is in the image.
click for a larger image
the data we have to re assign the brightness values to larger numbers
so more of the 256 values are used.
I did this by applying the formula
to the image. Now both the
brightest and the dimmest pixels are visible. I continued
processing to produce Outer Corona above. Much of this was further
reassignment of brightness levels to provide additional contrast for
details within the corona.
Solar Eclipse Maestro
I made a point of not looking at the SEM predictions before processing
my images to prevent prejudicing my processing. Here is what SEM