I had a once in a lifetime chance to view to Great American Eclipse of 2017 last month.

I went up to Corvallis, OR to view the eclipse with my parents and uncle. I’ve seen partial eclipses before, so I felt like I knew what to expect.

We rigged up my dad’s old Orion telescope and I quickly learned, with some creative placement, I could actually use my phone to take pictures through it.

The August 21, 2017 Eclipse in progress. (Samsung Galaxy S8)

Pretty neat, right? You can even make out some pretty major sunspots, which, I am told, are larger than the entire Earth. Since we were looking at it through a Dobsonian telescope, the image was actually mirrored on both axes.

Approaching totality. (Samsung Galaxy S8)

I got a lot better with the telescope/smartphone setup as the eclipse progressed. The skies had noticeably darkened, and the temperature had begun to drop. It was around this time, that some small aircraft painted a contrail right over the eclipse. I was really upset at first, thinking that this plane had ruined our moment, but took the moment to take a portrait of my father. As the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, take filter-heavy portraits of your father.

Telescope setup in Corvallis, OR on Eclipse Day. (Samsung Galaxy S8)

The moments leading up to totality were something unlike anything I had ever experienced.

I was told that when it happens, you’ll know.

What I experienced, was exactly that; you just knew.

The sun blinked out, and there were audible gasps and shrieks from the surrounding neighborhood. And there, in the sky, was the magnificent eclipse.

I was staring straight into a black hole.

Totality. (Canon 60D; Canon f/4L 70-200mm)

It was unlike anything I had ever seen. So alien. So unreal. So extraordinary.

They say that your first total eclipse changes you. I consider myself changed. It’s hard to put into words just how the eclipse made me feel, but it certainly was something special.

Early in my photography career, I used to pride myself in taking interesting pictures of uninteresting things. “Anyone can take cool pictures of cool things,” I used to say.

I’ll be the first one to say that I was wrong.

Whenever you take a photograph, you’re not just saving pixels or exposing film, you’re taking a snapshot of your own personal state of being. Anyone can look at the photos posted above and appreciate them, but only I can look at them and recall how I felt while I was taking them.

That’s powerful. That’s extraordinary.

So keep taking pictures.

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