Well, it was a huge weekend of activity in San Francisco!
Of course there was the big Bay to Breakers running race & crazy parade, sponsored by Zazzle (BTW, Memento makes everything Zazzle does – just make cheaper, faster, better service, just contact us for a quote. )
We were all a little deflated that the USS Iowa did not enjoy her final voyage out of San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge (then again, it should have stayed here all along, to join our other floating museums that add historical richness).
But the Big Show would not be postponed by anything short of a sudden change in the laws of physics.
In order to enjoy without burning out our retinae, our family fashioned a pinhole solar projector from a set of old shipping triangle tubes. We taped two of them together: longer = bigger projected images. My son learned how important it was to block out the light leaks, so as to keep the projected image visible. I got a kick from seeing the old Ofoto logo. Ofoto was, while I worked there, the biggest online photo service in the world.
A few astronomy websites also provided the instruction that experienced photographers & astronomers could fashion solar-safe viewing glasses, from old black & white film. The film used had to be fully-exposed. And it had to be absolutely, positively silver-emulsion film, not color film, or color-based B&W film. Luckily, dad still has negatives from the days of developing his own B&W film. The leaders are fully exposed, and made great solar filters. Of course, it also made dad look WAY COOL.
Using a terrific iPhone app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, we figured out where the sun would be, about the time of the eclipse. Turns out a neighbor’s house would block the view from the backyard.
So we scurried over to McKinley Square, high atop Potrero Hill, to keep a clear view throughout. Added benefit: McKinley has a great playground for kids, who might just get a little bored with an hour of watching a celestial object move veeeeerrrrryyyy sloooooowwwwwllllyyyyyyy.
Pretty much every article I read gave the advice to “not try and do too much lest you miss enjoying this incredible spectacle.” Naturally, I closed my eyes to that advice, since I Am Different. So we brought our new pinhole projector, the two sets of goggles
we’d made, the big pro DSLR with the kit lens, the big whopper 400mm telephoto lens (think “sports sidelines”), tripod, tape, extra aluminum foil & pins, in case our pinhole got damaged.
Luckily, my tripod was once-again too wimpy to support the big boy telephoto. Also, I couldn’t figure out how to aim the camera without:
- Burning my eyes in the viewfinder
- Burning the backplane of the camera
So after a deep breath, I accepted that I Was Not Different. The camera came off the tripod, and dad sat back to enjoy the show through the goggles & projector.
But then I realized hey, I can use ultra fast shutter speeds, so hand-holding the camera-with-huge-lens is an option. And I could just “get close” using my eyes, then move my eye so I was just seeing the entrance to the viewfinder. Move the camera until the glare exploded out of the viewfinder, and hit the button. Voila! Worked like a charm.
Tech talk on the photo to the right: Canon 5DMII + EF400mm f4 OD, @ f22 & 1/8000th sec(!!!) ISO=L(ow). Translation: camera was set to allow the absolute minimum light to hit the sensor, which was set to absolute minimum sensitivity. Even then, the edges were blown out. Had the “wow” moment in Adobe Camera Raw, when just for fun, I slid exposure way darker. Amazingly, the terrible excess edge glow just went away. Definitely did not expect that.
Just for fun, I aimed the lens through some tree branches, and hung my wife’s sunglasses over the end of the big giant lens.
My wife has patiently, slowly taught me to take my shots, then “put the camera down.” We’d made fast friends with the other neighbors who’d come out to see the show. One of them is a film maker named Randall. He had a great time with the pinhole projector. He also realized this was the perfect time for an alien invasion, and caught them on his iPhone as they attacked!
Of course the sun & moon were kind enough to time their interlude neatly between dinnertime & bedtime. McKinley Square faces the western slope of Potrero Hill, which in turn faces the Pacific, with just a bit of blocking by the distant Mt. Sutro & Twin Peaks. So by the time the eclipse peaked, the familiar cold evening breeze started blowing. Time to warm up in the car on the short ride home, then tell stories about friendly aliens exploring fascinating new planets.