The Solar Eclipse from Elkhart Indiana

I, like millions of Americans, set out on August 21, 2017 to photograph the solar eclipse taking place throughout a large swath of the United States.  I decided weeks prior that I would not try to photograph the sun directly because there were people with better equipment in path of totality that would get phenomenal photos.

What I did decide to do was to go and capture some photos in downtown Elkhart.  My goal was to photograph the +/-90% eclipse of the sun with a city landmark in the foreground so it would at least have local interest.

I decided to try and capture the event with film instead of digital.  The logic behind that was that film was supposed to preserve the highlights better than digital.  I used a Mamiya C330 Twin Lens Reflex camera (medium format film) with 85mm lens and a Canon Elan 7 (35mm fim) with 28-90mm lens.  I used ISO 100 speed black and white film although the 120 roll was 12 months past expiration.  I started composing my shots and snapping away, using a light meter to figure out my settings.   I basically was at the limits of f/32 and 1/500th of a second with the Mamiya.  The Elan could shoot up to 1/4000 second shutter speed.

With film photography, I do not get the immediate feedback on how my shots turn out like I get from using a digital camera.  It took a week to get the images back from the lab. I paid to have the lab scan the negatives to CD.  What I saw from the images confirmed a hunch I had – that the shots with the Mamiya were a bit overexposed.  In addition, with 90% of the sun blocked, the light from the sun was still too strong and the sun looked like it would on any non-eclipse day.  So much for deciding to shoot film only.  That left me with images with the sun in them that not different than if the photos were taken at any other time.  I did, however, have a great experience witnessing the event with the solar glasses I bought.

Some lessons I learned was that if I had a filter (either strong ND or solar) for the lens that the images I had in mind would be still be under-exposed in the foreground unless I brackets my shots substantially.  I would have had better chance of successful images of the sun itself if I was under the shade of totality as I would have been photographing within the limits of the gear I used.  I miscalculated the gear and film limits.

Below are thumbnails to some of the images I took that day.  Click on the thumbnail to see larger version and the image’s caption.

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