My First Look
Friday, 3 October 1986
My first eclipse picture! If you're going to have clouds, at least make it at a partial eclipse!
At last, a chance to see an eclipse! I didn't know enough at this point in my life to understand that I should
be bored by a partial eclipse; it was enough that I was going to be able to see something that all the astronomy
magazines were talking about. As in 1984, this one would be annular-total. Unlike 1984, though, the scientists
this time really didn't know just exactly whether there would be any totality at the midpoint of the path. They
were predicting that, if there were some totality, it would only be for a couple of seconds, and then only right
at the midpoint of the path. Since that would be happening somewhere near Iceland, I didn't plan to have any of
those distractions get in the way of my enjoying the eclipse; I was content to see and photograph partial phases
through the clouds in downtown Indianapolis.
I was only slightly excited about the whole event, if for no other reason than there were so many clouds. Any pictures I took would have to be timed perfectly in order to see anything of the sun through the slight breaks in the clouds - when there were any, that is! As it turned out, I didn't get too many chances, but I took advantage of the ones I had. The picture above gives you an idea of what I had to work with.
The concept of traveling around the world to see an eclipse was still pretty far way from my thoughts at this point, but I'd been given an introduction to the kinds of things I'd have to think about - weather, timings, camera settings and so forth - that would be valuable to me in my future adventures. They'd just have to wait for the right time. Too bad I'd missed the eclipse in 1984!
After this experience, and especially after seeing my first total eclipse, I pretty much decided that a partial solar eclipse just wasn't worth going out of my way to go anywhere to see. They're just not that exciting, and to travel to see one, well, that didn't seem to make any sense. The only time I think it would be neat to see and photograph a partial would be at sunrise or sunset, when the rising or setting sun near the horizon, bloated and red, hanging so near the horizon with a big bite taken out of it - that would be a neat enough sight to be worth traveling to see. You really have to be careful, though, to pick a spot where the clouds don't build up on the horizon and ruin your view. It's pretty common to have such low clouds at sunrise or sunset, so it's easily as big a gamble as the one we always take when going to see a total eclipse, with perhaps less of a reward awaiting your successful site choice. Part of the deal, I guess, but worth it if you get the shot. I don't think I'd travel outside the country to see one, though.
© 1998 Dan McGlaun