August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Nebraska

I remember knowing about this total solar eclipse date probably 20 years ago and at the time thinking, well that day will never get here. Well here it came. Of course the cloud cover would go and make it interesting. Given it was to take place around midday, it wouldn't leave ton of positioning room. The models at least painted this picture for a good week. Knew it would likely be a problem.

The image above is basically all of Nebraska and not much more. Look close and you can see the outline. That was around sunrise. Stuff from Kansas was streaming northeast. Lower level stuff was entrenched across western areas of Nebraska. I almost didn't even try. But it seemed if anywhere within 3-4hr driving distance would be ok now, it was going to be between where the cirrus stream wanted to be and that low level stuff. A pretty small window, as it looked in the morning. Already some storms in southeast Nebraska.

There was also a lot of talk about traffic problems. I wanted nothing to do with the interstate and avoided that. Traffic wasn't bad but did start to pick up west of Wahoo on 92. Like when I chase storms, I tend to try and time my arrival for when I need to be there and not way sooner. I started to become a little concerned I'd not make it.

I remember being eager to at least get in the total eclipse path area, which wasn't overly wide. Figured at least if traffic gets jammed up, I could at least see something from there. What was interesting was that the mobile internet seemed largely fine, but that Google maps was clearly taking a hit. Kept refusing to load. Obviously a lot of people around the country were accessing it. I never could get it to load again till after the eclipse was over.

Here's a satellite loop of the Moon's shadow crossing the planet, with the US in the upper left. Boy did this turn into a chore to make. Never could get any new goes 16 of it. Then goes 13 stuff refused to load in some software to view it. Settled on downloading jpgs then aligning. Photoshop gave it a B for effort. Had to manually do the rest. Anyway, you'd need a pretty special jet to hang with this shadow, as it's moving around 2000mph, depending on location at the time.

The temperature really drops during totality and even starts before that. I could feel it a few minutes out from totality. I was then too in awe to notice temperature during totality. But look at the southeast US before the shadow. The cumulus clouds start to build from the heating. Then notice just after the shadow, they are largely gone, but soon rebuild again.

Before this day arrived I tried to find something cool to shoot in the path. But I soon gave up on that, once the cloud issue became apparent. It was pointless at that point, as who knew where one would end up.

I end up somewhere northwest of Grand Island. I turned on a gravel road and quickly drove around looking for anything to shoot. Problem was I had no gps because of that Google maps problem. After going a ways and several turns, I decided I'd better head back before I get lost. I mostly wanted to at least get back to the very open and free of power lines spot. Thought, fine I'll use this sign. I watched it from there without a soul around, for about 2 hours.

I did not have a ton of interest in big telephoto views. I mostly wanted to capture the ultrawide view of the shadow and sky. So I rented a fisheye and shot a time lapse with that. But I did also rent a 4k camera with a mega zoom range. Had both on tripods but the time lapse was going to require a ton of shutter adjustments to pull off. This rendering here ended up a bit brighter than I'd like it, but lrtimelapse wasn't overly playing along. My randomly placed adjustments and just that dynamic range changing so fast was not helping at all. Change the key frames and you have to wait a while. Surely spent more than half a day trying to get it to play along better. Settled on this one.

Soon as it was totally covered, the sky was simply amazing. I was pretty floored. I only occasionally glanced up at the sun but it looked cool too. I grabbed the video with mega zoom finally and was ready to zoom way in with that. Soon as I started to zoom, aarrrggghhh the sun started to come back out. I should have practiced beforehand just how short 2 minutes of time really is. I just couldn't believe it was over already.

Notice the thick cirrus to the left/east. I got out of those with plenty of time but tried to clear any random ones. But of course right as it's about to fully eclipse I did get the one poorly placed cirrus cloud to go right over. Least it was thin.

Here is the video before I picked it up to zoom. I had adjusted its exposure right before totality was ready to happen. Could notice the sky going darker a bit quicker all the sudden and just set the exposure with the plan to let it go. So that would capture how much darkness change there is, without adjusting the exposure for it. And that is what this is. This is that sped up but this happened in probably two minutes.

Here's a video grab moments after that other video ended, as I finally went for the zoom. I forget the zoom level on the this camera, but it would more than fill the frame with just the moon once zoomed in. I had a tracking mount with that it could have been on the whole time. I should have done that and used a 3rd camera to record the darkening scene. But yeah midway zoom the sun started to come back out and it wastes zero time in becoming way too bright. I was so shocked it was over already.

The drive home the traffic was far different. Wish I had shot a bit of video of it. I mostly just had a west drive home on highways, but the times I'd hit north-south ones, those were packed. One of those jogs a town had construction in. That was crazy. I turn on side streets just to go back south and figure out something else. Thankfully google maps was now working again. Thought, yep I'm taking gravel. I hit highway 81 off gravel somewhere and I think I turned right/south then turned turned left in a median turn to go north. I then hit east-west 91. That intersection can sometimes be a pain because it flashes red east and west and that's it. That thing was so backed up westward. I thought, man they are never getting across this because of all the traffic going north on 81. Really had to think about the roads on this day.

My road problems were nothing compared to say I25 south of Cheyenne. I looked at a web camera at night, like 9 hours after the eclipse and southbound was endless taillights barely moving at all. That had to take people forever to get home. If I drive to the one in 2024, I think I'll just plan to stay the night there after it. Or really scope out some less travelled options. Then again it will probably have way less hype than this one, given how long it had been since the US had one before 2017. The last total solar eclipse viewalbe from anywhere in the lower 48 was 1979! The last one to cross the whole US like this one did was 1918. So yeah this one had a long wait for people in the states. Nearly 40 years!

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