Well it came and it went, a year’s of anticipation gone in about 2 minutes. Shauna had to work and thanks to the great administration at Mt. Vernon High School I had the day off. It seemed like the planned festivals and activities in our area were not drawing the crowds that were expected, but from what I could gather through the web it seems like the Shawnee National Forest was bombarded. Friday night I encountered many out of towners in Harrisburg looking for cold ice tea. It was reported that popular Shawnee locations like Garden of the Gods and Jackson Falls were closed due to overcrowding this weekend.
I asked my pal Moe, who works at SIU what it was like over there today, he responded,
There was large crowds at SIU and in Carbondale today. It seemed that many people made it a 1 day event. I’m not sure of the numbers, but the SIU football stadium was sold out and there were hundreds if not a few thousand people outside of the stadium on SIU grounds. The arena at SIU was also full of people. Photos from Carbondale showed many people down on the strip too. Again, no idea of numbers, but quite a few. It was a really cool scene at SIU. People from all over the world. According to the Shawnee forest FB page, there were tons of visitors in the forest lands too. I saw more people than I have ever seen at the pine hills yesterday.
I decided to go to one of my favorite spots near Harrisburg to watch the eclipse alone. I charged up all my gear and packed it up up to my secret spot around 12:30 today. I laid on my back with my eclipse glasses and watched the sun slowly get covered for awhile then I walked around and took a few photos.
I didn’t realize how dark it had got until noticing I could see white flashing lights on the towers and silos around me. I looked up again and saw that the sun was nearly eclipsed. I had my 300mm lens on my Canon T4i, since the 1.6 crop factor and 18 mega pixels would make for the closest images. I got the sudden idea I needed to take video, and managed to get some shaky video of the sun becoming covered and reaching totality.
In the past I have spent several evenings on this hill photographing the sun going down. The shift from full light to dusk that would normally take an hour or more happened in seconds. I took several still images of the sun, but struggled with the Rebel T4i that I’m still not accustomed to using. I wanted to shoot several bracketed images and put together a composite but I was too slow with the cameras controls.
It occurred to me I should look around, and I did so. The lights of Harrisburg were on, I could hear far away people screaming and hollering. The roads and highways were mostly empty though I did see the occasional headlights. I went to grab my other camera and started snapping photos, but had it set at ISO 200 and it was too dark for hand held images. I looked around one last time and then the light returned, it felt like the shortest 2 minutes of my life. I went back to my tripod mounted Rebel and shot a few images of the sun returning which proved to be my favorite of the day.
Once it was fully light I took a few more pictures, loaded up my gear and walked back to the car. I was in Harrisburg at 2 PM and saw a river of traffic heading North through town most of the cars with Wisconsin and Michigan license plates. These people had to have jumped into their cars moments after the eclipse to get from the Shawnee to Harrisburg in 20 minutes. It was reported that the traffic leaving Southern Illinois was wall to wall.
As usual I have mixed feelings about the event, I created a few once in a lifetime images, and enjoyed seeing the eclipse from a vantage point that no one else saw. At the same time I wasn’t really prepared, and struggled with the settings on my Rebel T4i. I regret not bringing a second tripod to video the eclipse while I used telephoto to take totality photos.
Good news is I get a second chance in 7 years.