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My complicated eclipse journey

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#1 RoscoeD


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Posted 13 April 2024 - 04:00 PM

I started planning for this 2 years ago when I was visiting a relative in Arlington TX when he mentioned that his house was in the path of totality and that we had first dibs on the spare room!


April 2023 I posted my first request for tips.  Specifically, I was looking for how to use my ASI Air and my ASI533MC Pro to capture the event.  I got very little specific help (really liked the "don't shoot it it, experience it" advice #sarcasm).


Sep 23 I tried another post with the same question.  More useful in general but nothing that answered my specific questions.


After I got back from a cruise in Mar 24 I tried one more time with more urgency.  I finally got some really good advice that I followed the best I could.  The rest of my journey followed this course:


I received a DM that suggested I use a DSLR and Eclipse Orchestrator.  Other useful advice was to use Sharpcap (or Firecapture) with the ASI533 to shoot video. I didn't own a laptop so neither option initially seemed workable.  But I was able to borrow one and then had to decide which was the right way to go.  Either way I knew I'd have to learn some new software and learn it quickly (and neither were free so...).  Ultimately (for better or for worse) I chose to go with my DSLR and Eclipse Orchestrator.  But by the time I figured this out I was unable to procure a Nikon serial shutter cable (they're all hand made and most of the makers had shut down for their own eclipse prep). This would impact my shoot rate (Nikon disables the buffer when shots are commanded via the USB cable) but I'd have to make do.


Next decision was do I go with my GT71 or my 420mm DSLR lens.  I started with the scope but could not get a useful image.  An entire night was wasted trying to troubleshoot when I finally realized it was just terribly out of focus.  Then discovered that I didn't have the focus range with my flattener installed.  Removed it and it worked (the EAF had to run 3 focusing cycles before it finally found the right spot) but then realized that the ZWO EAF would be a pain to focus in the daylight given the mechanization of their ASIAir.  Ultimately switched over to the DSLR lens.


Then I conceived a plan to connect the DSLR to ASI Air to polar align the EQ6R and then "Goto" the sun on Eclipse day, then switch the camera cable over to the laptop for image execution, leaving the ASI Air to continue tracking with the mount. While I was testing to see if the was a workable plan this I discovered that I had bent the connector on my camera cable and it would no longer talk to the ASI Air.  Amazon Prime to the rescue...ordered two just in case.  First one (a cheap knockoff) came in 2 days (more delays) and worked great until I bent that one (#crap).  But I had discovered what I'd been doing wrong to bend the connector so that didn't happen again...but I ordered yet another cable as a spare, just in case.  The second cable (Nikon OEM) arrived a couple of days later and I was back up and running.


Next concern was the meridian flip that would occur during the event.  Clearly not good. After some research I learned that the EQ6R doesn't do auto MF and the ASI Air won't either if not in a shooting mode. I verified this with some testing.


I also learned that I needed a shade for my laptop or I'd never be able to see the screen.  Big black tote and a packing blanket over my head worked like a champ (picture old-time photographers tucked under a "cape" at the camera)


Then came a week of testing Eclipse Orchestrator with my Nikon D750.  I was able to get it to work reliably with a shooting delay of 1.25s.  It might have gone faster but I simply ran out of time to be comfortable.


Somewhere in there I bought a cheap GPS puck, not for the location services (easy enough to type in from a variety of iPhone apps) but rather to get precise clock timing for my laptop.  It tested out fine, but I initially didn't realize that it changed my planned Texas location in EO to my then-current Wyoming location which completed jacked up my script (both timing and lack of totality).  I manually changed it back for more testing and then packed up and headed to Texas.


Forecast was terrible but as we say in the flight test work "never cancel on a forecast" so I set up Saturday night and got it polar aligned.  Then I tried to get the GPS puck to work and, well panic set in because it wouldn't.  Finally figured out the rather obscure settings and was ready to go.


Day of the eclipse was somewhat clearer than forecast so I was hopeful.  Using my ASI Air to "Goto" the sun was successful and I fine tuned the pointing (it was off way more than testing had shown but luckily the edge of the sun was [barely] within the image so no searching was not required).  All looked good so I moved the cable over to the laptop.  I discovered that the second DSLR battery (it holds two with the extended grip) was really low...that's when I realized I'd forgotten to pack the proprietary battery charger.  Nothing I can do now but hope the one battery holds out (it did).


Throughout the event clouds rolled in and out.  There was a lot of open sky, but on occasion thin clouds dimmed the event but at other times completed obscured it, although usually not for long.  The only real impact was my plan to get earthshine on the moon was prevented due to the thin clouds obscuring the lunar surface detail.


In general, I got about 80% success despite the panic over the last month to get a solution worked out. EO worked awesome, I was able to run an unattended script and enjoy the eclipse.


Here's link to my online gallery of the results.


Can't shoot an Eclipse without the classic timeline montage:



Classic Diamond Ring:



Bailey's Beads:



HDR version of totality...unfortunately no earthshine, but the clouds did add drama:



Diamond ring in the clouds:


  • R Botero, kfiscus, Diana N and 2 others like this

#2 kfiscus



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Posted 13 April 2024 - 04:23 PM

Those are great- especially like the dramatic cloud-enhanced diamond ring.

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#3 Cajundaddy



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Posted 25 April 2024 - 01:18 PM

Very nice shots RoscoeD.  Glad you managed to work it all out and get good results.


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