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Total Solar Eclipse Offered Stunning Spectacle Across the Country on Monday

Ken Ketchie captured this image of the total solar eclipse from a friend’s backyard in Lexington, S.C.

By Jesse Wood

Banner Elk-based photographer Todd Bush summed up the total solar eclipse on Monday as a “once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

The Great American Total Solar Eclipse, which was the first coast-to-coast eclipse since 1918, occurred along a 70-mile wide path – the path of totality – from Oregon to South Carolina.

Bush, who travelled to Lake Rabun in North Georgia to view the eclipse, started planning weeks in advance. But those plans went haywire just hours before the total solar eclipse. A professional photographer, Bush began researching about how to shoot solar eclipses a few weeks ago and practiced with solar filters in advance. He received permission to shoot near a dam on land owned by a power company. 

However at about 9:30 a.m. his vehicle became stuck in bog-like conditions near the dam. After receiving help and being towed out by a Jeep, he scratched that idea and found another spot on the lake to shoot the total solar eclipse. This place called Boat Church was a dock built by a Methodist minister years ago for those on house boats and other craft to enjoy Sunday services.

Six high school kids from southern Georgia also found this particular spot, and Bush and the teenagers all enjoyed this rare natural phenomenon together for an afternoon. Seniors in high school and undergrads in college, they ate pizza and played Monopoly while waiting for the eclipse. Bush, meanwhile, was taking pictures and making last minutes preparations for shooting the eclipse.

The new moon covered the sun either partially or totally for about a couple hours, and the moon completely covered the sun for about two minutes. During a partial eclipse, special solar glasses are required, but you could remove those glasses safely during the brief time of the total solar eclipse.

“Right before totality, it was an otherworldly sense of lighting between moonlight and twilight. It was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before – the most incredible, otherworldly, unusually epic lighting,” Bush said. “The best part was the unusual light that fell on the landscape.”

As the total eclipse started, Bush’s new friends started to scream and sing. Bush started to applaud and scream along with them, and one of his fisheye-lens photos caught Bush clapping as he stood near his telescope, pinpointing the moonlight and sunlight right behind him.

“That was a cool coincidence,” Bush said.

Bush used a variety of lenses, from 8mm to 500mm “and a few things in between” to try to capture a variety of eclipse shots. Below are some of his pictures and a few from Ken Ketchie, who also enjoyed clear skies from the backyard of his friend Doug Moore’s house in Lexington, S.C., a few miles from the center of the path of totality. Normally a three-hour drive, Ketchie’s trip home took about 5 hours due to the traffic exiting the path of totality.

Matt Moore, the son of Doug Moore and a software engineer from Chicago, visited his parents during the solar eclipse. Moore brought his DJI Mavic Pro, a quadcopter equipped with a camera. He programmed the drone to fly in a circle 100 meters above the backyard to film the 360-degree sunset and sunrise caused by the eclipse. See the film above. 

“A couple minutes before the eclipse, I just started recording. The video is a little out of focus, but most of it’s pretty cool,” Moore said. “I let it record during the eclipse to see some of the things you can’t see on the ground … at the 1:20 minute mark you can see people shooting fireworks over the lake and right before the total eclipse, you can see the downtown street lights turning on. It’s pretty neat.” 

As for my family and the hundreds of other eclipse viewers at Whitewater Falls near Cashiers, clouds from every direction rolled in to cover the total solar eclipse at the last minute. Disappointing but an unforgettable experience nonetheless. 

For the afternoon, we hiked to see the 411-foot falls and  sat underneath a shady tree, hanging out, waiting for the eclipse. Clouds were moving about, but there were plenty of blue skies for the time being. We put on our solar glasses and watched the moon “take bites” out of the sun.

After a while, the temperature, which was hot, started to cool. The sky darkened and the crickets chirped. It was surreal – even if the clouds for the most part dampened the brilliant spectacle of the corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere that usually isn’t visible.

Total solar eclipses happen once every 18 months, according to NASA. But most of those happen over the ocean. The last total solar eclipse to happen in the continental U.S. was 47 years ago.

The next one to take place in the U.S. will be in 2024. The total eclipse will arc from Texas to Maine in the states. The total eclipse will also be visible in portions of Mexico and Canada in North America.

For those lucky enough to live in communities such as Carbondale, Illinois; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Paducah, Kentucky, those residents will be living in the path of totality for the second time in 7 years, according to this story on the upcoming eclipse in 2024.

Enjoy the images below. 

Images from NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/eclipsephotos 

Images compiled by Washington Post

A few other images, videos found on Twitter:

Photos by Ken Ketchie:

The bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 77, leaving Columbia, S.C., after the eclipse.
Doug Moore takes a look at the eclipse from his backyard in Lexington, S.C. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Photos by Todd Bush:

Photographer Todd Bush meets new friends during eclipse in north Georgia.