For at least three months now, people have often asked me, “where are you going for the eclipse?” I typically provide a vague answer like, “wherever there are clear skies” or something non-committal like that. Well, with the eclipse less than a week away, it is time to commit. The trouble is…where? East Tennessee? South Carolina? Missouri? Nebraska? Oregon? So many places! So many choices! It would be sooo much easier if someone just said, “go here, Steve, I guarantee you clear skies during the eclipse!” But, no one will, or can, do that at this point in time. It is just too far into the future for that type of clarity. As I write this, there is no cold front poised to push south through the US from Canada to leave a massive high pressure ridge and blue skies in its wake. No, that would be too easy.
I have learned that eclipse chasing is not easy. So much to research. So much to learn, practice, and perfect. Getting a 700 mm shot of the corona would be trophy for any photographer, but there is a lot of work in making that happen! And, in the end, it comes down to the clouds. The moon is not responsible for a total eclipse, the clouds are. The moon merely enables an eclipse. The clouds permit the eclipse to happen. Clouds own eclipses.
So, as I’ve planned for some time now, I’m heading west. In the west, the eclipse happens earlier in the day than in the east. That may not seem like much, but in the summer, it can mean a lot. Convective air currents driven by the hot sun — the very object we hope to photograph — cause clouds to form regularly across the country. Typically in the afternoon. My hope is that, by going west, I’ll increase my odds that the eclipse has finished by the time the convective clouds have formed. Sounds good, doesn’t it? My fingers are crossed!
Of course, weather happens and all the planning in the world can go down the tubes with an unexpected shift in the jet stream. That’s because the best weather forecast still merely amounts to a prediction based on odds, a roll of the dice. A lucky seven may be the most probable number on my next roll, but I can also end up with snake eyes! So, I’m betting on the fact that a western journey will provide the bests odds for the final stage of my eclipse adventure. My initial target is the Denver area to begin with. Denver is not in the path of totality, but it offers a nice staging area at a time when the weather forecasts will start to be reliable. As reliable as they can be, that is. From Denver, I can reach a large swath of the path of totality. Starting on Friday from the Denver area, I could drive as far west as Central Idaho, or east to Missouri, Illinois, and even Tennessee by Sunday, one day in advance of the big day. My primary objective on Monday is the high plains of western Nebraska, but if my plans dictate a location in Missouri or Illinois, I may be knocking on your door come Sunday!
At the end of this journey, I may not see the eclipse due to weather. I may not photograph the eclipse due to, well a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, but you can imagine. They say that “life is a journey, not a destination.” If there was ever a metaphor for that phrase, the eclipse would be it for me. I’ve uttered those words so many times I can’t remember, “life is a journey, not a destination.” If I get clouded out on Monday, we’ll see how well I have learned that lesson!
Gotta roll. But before I leave, let me tell you that it is not easy to bring a solar eclipse, convective air currents, photography, and Nebraska together into a brief narrative like this! I hope you have enjoyed it. Good luck on your eclipse journey, whatever it may be! And whatever it may be, I hope you have clear skies wherever you are!
Here’s a shot of my truck loaded for the expedition. I’m billing it as Steve’s Excellent Eclipse Adventure. I like it!