After a long-hyped up solar eclipse campaign, the solar eclipse of 2017 happened right on schedule, at least for in Oregon. Millions of people flocked in to the states in the path of totality, one being my own home state of Oregon. This is the first time I have experienced a total solar eclipse. This was both an exciting and fascinating event.
In today’s eclipse, I travel to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Sheep Rock Unit near John Day, Oregon, to observe and photograph the eclipse. I arrived around 8:00 a.m. at the Historic Cant Ranch meadow where the National Parks Service allowed cars to park on a spacious open meadow with about 80 other cars. Park rangers handed out eclipse glasses, special glasses that reduces the sunlight to safely view the eclipse. The sun was in full view with some high overcast giving a slight filter, but nothing obstructive. A light breeze blew. The temperature started off around 60°F and began warming as the sun rose above the hills. This location is under the path of totality.
The eclipse started around 9:09 a.m. Pacific Time with the moon approaching from the sun’s two o’clock position. Between 9:09 a.m. and 9:48 a.m. the eclipse was unnoticeable, meaning very little difference in light level and warmth from the sun’s ray. It was around 9:48 when changes became noticeable. The air started feeling cooler, probably from the heat radiation being reduced. The light seemed dimmer. The breeze picked up a little bit. Around 10:00 a.m., the crickets started chirping and mosquitoes returned. Then around 10:09 sky became dark blue with a light ring low on the horizon, like one would see at sunrise or sunset, but this was a midday sunset-sunrise. At 10:15, the sunlight dimmed, resembled a dim metal-halide lamp.
At 10:21, the light went out completely. Up in the sky was a silver ring and the crowd cheered and applauded. The landscape looked like dusk. The air felt chilly and the breeze picked up. I had a whole two minutes to shoot photos with a telephoto and wide angle. First, I wanted a close-up shot of the eclipse. After that, I wanted a wide shot to show the scene. I had to work fast. Then at 10:23, there was light. I packed up and left, so I can beat the crowd out.
Sheep Rock Unit was not my primary choice. Painted Hills was my primary choice. I bypassed Painted Hills because of its closer proximity to Bend, Portland, and U.S. 97. I was not sure if I was going to have any luck given the amount of people camped and staked out on every nook and cranny along the highway. I lucked out with Sheep Rock Unit for having a light turnout and being under the path of totality. My worst case scenario alternative was to head up on Forest Road 46 and stake out at the Mt. Hood & Willamette National Forests.
U.S. 26 is about a half mile from the Historic Cant Ranch meadow. I did not travel on U.S. 26 because of the heavy traffic volume through Madras and Prineville. Instead, my route took me above north on I-84, Ore. 206, and Ore. 19. I traveled Ore. 206 and Ore. 19 many times and this was the first time I have seen much traffic on the highway. Two gas stations in Biggs Junction was packed at 5:00 a.m. A third is not a 24-hour and was not open at the time.
On the return, I took Ore. 19 to Ore. 207 and north into Boardman. There was a half-mile backup going north into Heppner where a sheriff deputy was flagging traffic through a controlled intersection. Heading west on I-84, heavy traffic lineup was seen on U.S. 97 from Biggs Junction Bridge to WA-14. Cars poured onto I-84 from U.S. 97, U.S. 197, and Ore. 35. Once in Portland, with exception of I-84 westbound to I-205 northbound that always has a line, it was smooth sailing on I-205 southbound at 4:30 p.m., which was a rare sight.
This solar eclipse experience was a great and fascinating experience. I found it intriguing to observe the eclipse, do some photography, and learn some neat stuff about when the moon blocks the sun. This was a successful trip and worth it.
The Eclipse Progress
There was one fascinating experiment I wanted to do during this eclipse. That was to see how much the light fades during the eclipse. Using my camera, I set the ISO to 200, aperture to f/7.1 and shutter to 1/640. It was interesting to see how much the light has changed during the time of the eclipse, starting from when I arrived, being bright, to all dark during the eclipse.