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Total Solar Eclipse 2017

It's been nearly a week since the total solar eclipse.  By now, you've surely seen hundreds of photos of the event, and may be tired of them.  To be honest, they mostly all look the same. There are a few exceptions, but seriously, it's not easy to create images of an eclipse that will be dramatically different than everyone else's.  Those that really are unique take a lot of planning and time to create.  Much more time than most of us have to devote to photography.  

My plan was to set up in my front yard and capture all phases of the eclipse, including over two-and-a-half minutes of totality.  It was a good plan, and I had all the necessary gear and had done my research to know how to capture the images.  It seemed like a slam dunk, and I wouldn't even have to fight the massive crowds and traffic that were predicted to flock toward the line of maximum totality.  

The only questionable aspect of this plan was the weather.  Darn the weather!  No matter how much we think we can control it, we just cannot.  The weather does what it wants when it wants to do it.  Clear skies for the total eclipse?  I think not.  At least not here in northwest Missouri. Some parts of the area had clear skies, if only for a brief time, but thick cloud cover was dominant and would make viewing the eclipse difficult, if not impossible.  It wasn't possible from my front yard, so the plans had to change....and quick! 

We traveled to the south and east, vigilantly watching the skies and checking the cloud cover radar as we went.  From the looks of things, it appeared we would need to travel at least a couple hours to get to some clearing.  Traffic seemed a little heavier than normal, but wasn't bad. After stopping a few times along the way, we finally decided to head to Sedalia to see how it looked there.  Sedalia was a little south of the max totality line, but the radar looked promising.  We ended up a few miles just south of Sedalia, just barely within the zone of totality.  By the time we set up, the eclipse was just starting.  The sky was mostly clear, although there were some thin clouds lingering. 

As it turned out, we were able to see the entire eclipse from our location.  Unfortunately, however, there were only a few seconds of totality.  A far cry from what I was hoping for on this day.  The cloud cover was spotty, as there were others in the area that were able to see the entire eclipse and over two minutes of totality.  It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time...and a little bit of luck, too.  At least we got to see it, so that makes it all worthwhile.  Here are a few of the images that I captured.

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Falling Back in a Big Way

It's hard to believe that we are over a month into the fall season.  Seems like summer just started! As is always the case, fall color is difficult to predict.  Some early forecasts indicated that the peak color here in northwestern Missouri was to be sometime around October 22.  However, with the warmer weather we have had, that seems to have been pushed back.  

Some of the trees have really started to show their colors in the last few days.  It's always nice to see and the cooler temperatures are welcome after a long, hot summer.  Fall is probably my second favorite season, but isn't far behind Springtime.  Enjoy just a few images of Autumn below.  It won't be long before all the leaves are gone and the snow starts blowing.  

Grinter Sunflower Farm - 2016

This marks the third year that I've made the little trip down to Grinter's Sunflower Farm, located between Lawrence and Tonganoxie, Kansas.  Each year, I have seen a dramatic growth in the number of people who visit this place.  It really is amazing, and attracts people from all over.  It is a very popular photography location, as I usually see a number of local photographers with various photographic equipment out for family or senior portrait shoots.  The combination of the sunflowers at their peak the lighting, assuming you are there at the right time and the weather is cooperating, can't be beat.  

Many of you probably know that I've been writing bi-weekly articles for the Improve Photography website for the past few months.  My visit to the farm this year was a great opportunity to provide a little more exposure to this wonderful place.  You can check out my article at this link. Check out the other articles while you are at the website; there is lots of great information, especially for those interested in learning how to make great images.   

I mentioned the importance of getting to the fields at the right time.  That applies not only to the time of day, but the time of year as well.  The sunflowers are typically planted in July.  That means they reach their peak bloom sometime in late August or early September.  This year, that time happened to be around the Labor Day holiday.  The crowds that weekend were incredible.  At one point, the farm had to be shut down to visitors because of traffic backups on the incoming highways.  I was there the Saturday before Labor Day, along with hundreds of other people. There was plenty of parking, however, and plenty of space to find my own little peace in the 40 acre field.  

Not only is time of year important, but also time of day.  This is especially important if you want to be there during the times of best lighting for photos.  Generally speaking, this is either just after sunrise or right at sunset.  The low angle of the sun at those times produces golden light and helps to create much more dramatic images.  Mid-day is the least favorable, as the sun directly overhead creates harsh light that just isn't as pleasing for photography.  Of course, if the skies are overcast, it doesn't really matter, but I would try to coordinate a visit when there is mostly sunny conditions and maybe a few light clouds swirling about.  A few high clouds, especially in the western sky can really create some dramatic color after the sun dips below the horizon.  I made my visit in the afternoon in order to catch the sunset.  The sky was sunny, but unfortunately there were no clouds in sight.  

Since the sky was crystal clear, I decided to stay late and catch some late evening and Milky Way shots.  I wasn't sure how dark the skies would be due to the proximity to Kansas City and Lawrence.  There was a fair amount of light pollution, but the Milky Way was still visible.  One of the nice things about staying late is that there are very few, if any, people there.  Once the sun went down, the crowds quickly disappeared, and the farm was as peaceful as one would hope. One of the bad things about staying late is mosquitoes.  I made the mistake of not packing insect repellent and regretted it as I was battling those blood suckers all evening.  

This image was taken well after sunset.  Photoshop was used to create a composite of two images to exaggerate the size of the moon over the field.

The Milky Way over a corn field adjacent to the sunflower field.

So, another year is in the books for visiting this amazing place.  It really is a neat place to go visit and I would definitely recommend it.  Even if you aren't a photographer.  I'll be there again next year, so look me up.