Friday, November 16, 2012

Total Solar Eclipse from Port Douglas

Wednesday 14th November 2012

Well the vodkas last night certainly helped with a good nights sleep. I didn't want to be waking every 15 minutes and clock watching. This is what typically happens when I need to catch an early morning flight. Woke around 5am but did not get up until about 5.30am. The bags were already packed so getting ready was not going to take long at all. Wandered down to the car park at around 6am and started setting up.

The sky had scattered cloud and a lot better than what had been there in previous mornings . The winds were rolling the clouds through so it is going to be a lottery if we are going to see anything. Setup of gear was pretty easy given I had practiced enough times. Connected the laptop to the 7D and it was just a matter of counting down. My little QStarz GPS was showing only the smallest of clock errors through the Eclipse Orchestrator so sync'd the DSLR clock.

By this time a number of other people had joined me in the car park. A few other people were jumping into cars which I though was strange at this late stage.

As we approached totality a rather thick cloud moved in front of the sun. I was rather annoyed at this stage but there is nothing I could do. The Eclipse Orchestrator application called out for filters to be removed which i did. At the point of totality the remaining sun beams that were appearing around the edge of the cloud disappeared. That was very dramatic and the gasps and wows from people around highlighted the spectacle. If I could describe it, it was as if the worm hole from Star Trek DS9 went from open to closed.

The DSLR was snapping away at this stage, every image was of cloud. About 30-40 seconds into the totality the eclipsed sun started to appear. There were no other clouds approaching so was going to experience totality pretty much to completion. To have just 1 second of totality, for me this was a success. Any additional time was going to be a bonus.

I turn around to look at the other people and some are still wearing the glasses. I shout to them that they can take them off.

Now to the beauty for the eclipse. It was really stunning. Most spectacles we see these days are accompanied by music to give atmosphere. All there was was an eerie silence and I found this very appropriate.

For the remaining time in totality I adjusted the positioning and exposure levels of the video camera. Then contact 3 when the diamond ring effect occurred for the last time it lit up the and surrounding cloud that had moved across. The automated photos on the DSLR had now completed and the call to replace filters had been made. Cloud had completely rolled in at this point so started packing up the gear.

I judged that I had experienced around 30 seconds of totality. But on returning to the hotel room and checking the video footage it was more like 70 seconds. A few SMS's had come through from people back in Sydney and abroad. I exchanged a few thoughts of the experience with them.

During the rest of the day I read reports from other eclipse chasers. Looks like people in Cairns were completely clouded over. Then people located only a couple of kilometers away were also clouded out. It simply came down to pure luck. Looks like it was on my side.

You can watch/hear the video on YouTube below...

And I have put together an image based on a stack of 5. These were of the prominences just before C3.

Final Preparations for Total Solar Eclipse

Tuesday 13th November 2012

Followed the usual routine this morning. Got up early and confirmed the suns position for eclipse zero hour tomorrow. All looking good. Did my normal run into Port Douglas before coming back and parking the car in the spot from where I plan to watch the eclipse.

Headed back up to the room and then completed my setup for the Eclipse Orchestrator application. Did a number of simulated runs which is a great feature of the applications. Allows you to make sure that the gear is ready.

Dropped over late in the afternoon to Four Mile Beach. This was so that I could manually set the 100-400mm lens to infinity. Used a large passenger ship that was off the coast before using electrical tape to ensure that the focus wouldn't change. Chatted with a few people on the beach about their plans. Do you drive looking for clearer skies or do you sit tight? I have chosen to sit tight and take what comes.

Took down all the tripods and mount attachments and stuck them in the back of the car before returning back to the hotel room to put away a couple of vodkas in readiness of the big event early tomorrow morning.

Clear skies!

Visit to Daintree Rainforest

Monday 12th November 2012

The morning greeted me with patchy cloud, very similar to previous mornings. There also appeared to be accompanying winds blowing on shore. Scoped out my preferred spot in the car park. This time I had eclipse glasses so that I could  ensure that the sun was above the trees which it was.

Took a few more photos of the car park before getting in the car and heading down to Port Douglas. This has become my morning routine now and I ensure that I bring the iPad to have a read of the papers.

The wierd thing that I am not seeing yet is huge numbers of people. This could be because people are basing themselves in Cairns and other locations. Or people are out and about don't things like sight seeing before the big event on Wednesday morning.

After refueling and catching up on the news I headed back to the hotel and then onto the village of Daintree. I was expecting the village to be a little bigger but there wild have only been around 6-8 shops. I chose to go on one of the river cruises and grabbed the cameras and boarded the boat leaving at 10.15am. We headed up the river towards where the guide had seen a crocodile in the previous days. Though we didn't see any crocs we did see some snakes sleeping in trees and some nice birds. The cruise was pleasant and showed off the beauty of the area. Certainly reminds me of far north New South Wales.

After leaving the boat I was going to head up to Cape Tribulation,  a short journey over the Daintree River by ferry. But they didn't take credit card so headed back to Port Douglas for lunch and a walk around the shops. Heavy showers were rolling through and had been doing so for most of the day. Did some grocery shopping and refueled the car.

Returned to the hotel and did some setup and preparation.  Weather forecasts are not conclusive but sounds like they will be similar to the last couple of days. It will certainly be a lottery.

Cairns and beyond

Sunday 11th November 2012

Woke early again this morning and upon opening the blinds saw sunlight kissing the trees that make up the garden view I have out of the apartment. Dressed quickly and headed to the car park on the north side ofthe resort to see where sun light was kissing the ground. There were a couple of car spots that would be ideal and took a few photos for reference. Then headed over to the southern car park and there were some possibilities there as well. One other option on this side is a grassed area.

I then moved between the two car parks as the time approached when totallity would hit. Definitely have options and will not worry about going to the beach to watch.  Now the only thing we need is clear skies.

At this point I jumped in the car and headed downto Port Douglas to grab some breakfast. There were some markets down by the water that were starting up and had a wonder through. Stalls were fairly typical with jewelry, clothing, photos etc. I grabbed a pineapple juice but it as more like pineapple pulp. Sweet and enjoyable.

Headed back to the hotel and grabbed the camera camera before heading south to Cairns. The day was looking so nice that I wanted to make the most of it whilst I could. Took about an hour to get into Cairns and parked the car before walking down and around the marina. Then walked through some of the streets. Being a Sunday the majority of the stores were shut. Restaurants however were open.

Stopped by the Rememberance Day ceremony that was being held along the Esplanade before getting in the car and heading towards the town of Atherton. The drive snaked up the mountain range that is located behind Cairns and was there in around a hour.

Atherton is a small country. Fairly typical really. After getting some cash out I the headed onto the town of Herberton which was a further 20 km on. There is a historical village setup in the old tip mining town. It was well worth the visit as everything had been setup with authentic houses and items from 1850 thru to 1950. Then grabbed some food from the town itself before driving back to Port Douglas.

Settled in for the evening. Thinking about the next couple of days. One more day of sight seeing and then a day specifically for setup and final testing before the big morning on Wednesday.

Mossman Gorge

Saturday 10th November 2012

Had a good nights sleep and was greeted in the morning by some mysterious bird calls. Headed out to the car park at around 6.15am. Cloud was everywhere with no hint as to where the sun would be. It is going to be very difficult to gauge the best spot to setup all the gear. With the eclipse so early in the morning the tree line is going to dictate where I watch it from. I suspect a lot of people would head to the beach but with all the gear I need to be closer to where I can have the gear.

I too a series of photos from various locations in the car park then headed towards the beach access. It was at this stage I glimpsed the first hint of direct sun. The spot which I have noted is a short walk from the hotel so the option is definitely there.

Headed towards the beach which was only about a 5-10 minute walk. The beach is long and flat and there were a few people out walking. I then spotted what looked to a lady paddle boarding with a dog. Walked back to the hotel and got in the car and head down to Port Douglas shops. It is a very nice area with the majority of shops focused on one street. It was quite early still, just after 7am so had to search for a place to ge a coffee. Grabbed a mocha and toasted banana bread. Caught up on some news before walking up and down the main strip.

Did a bit of a drive around trying to to spot places to watch the eclipse from there were a we spots that looked promising but will have to wait for a clear morning to be sure.

Around midday I decided to go for a drive up to Mossman. It is only 20km from Port Douglas and is not a large town. Appears to be famous for its gorge and they have worked hard to come up with a visitor centre and a shuttle bus system to drop people off. This appears to allow more people to visit as the car parking available at the gorge would have been small compared to that of the visitor centre.

Elevated walk ways allow you to move through the rain forest easily and offering spectacular views. The gorge itself was very beautiful with massive boulders with water crashing over them. There were plenty of people swimming  but kept on walking around the bush walk loop. Heard lots of exotic birds and saw a black snake on the 45 minute loop before boarding the bus back down to the visitor centre.

Had a nice lunch at the visitor centre before heading out for another drive and then back to Port Douglas to pick up some groceries and then finally back to the hotel. Watched some TV through a haze of static.

Hoping for clearer skies in the morning.