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Prepare for the great American eclipse

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In a little less than a month, on August 21st, a total solar eclipse will travel from coast to cast above the United States, the first time the continental U.S. has see an event like this since 1979. The '79 eclipse was only visible in a few states, a totality stretching the from each corner of the country hasn't happened since 1918. Needless to say, total solar eclipses come very few and far between. (The next will only be visible in some parts of the U.S. in 2024.)

The path of the August eclipse starts at the Oregon coast and travels in an arc across the country before heading out over the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, South Carolina. While the Springs won't see the full "total" eclipse, the good news is you won't have to travel too far if you want to capture it a its totality. (Even if you don't want to make a trek, the Springs will still see a wonderful show.)

The nearest cities of any appreciable size that will be under the full effect of the eclipse are Casper, Wyoming and Alliance, Nebraska. Anywhere on eastbound I-25 from Casper to Wheatland, Wyoming will see the full effect of the moon passing between the earth and the sun, but with Wheatland being on the very edge of the swath that gets maximum effect, you'll only be able to see the full effect for about 45 seconds. Glendo State Park, about 32 miles north of Wheatland, will have about 2.5 minutes of the full eclipse. Even a mere 32 or so miles makes a big difference in how the eclipse if viewed.

First, a cautionary note: Don't look at the eclipse without some form of eye protection. There are a number of ways to observe it without doing permanent damage, whether it be with special glasses — not your RayBans — or by looking at a projected image of the event. you're looking at the Sun, after all.

Second, if you're going to photograph the eclipse, your camera needs almost as much protection as your eyes. The intense sunlight, especially if magnified with a telephoto lens, can cause significant damage to the sensors in digital cameras and smartphones. There are a number of types of lens filters available, from expensive glass filters to cheaper mylar film filters that fit over your lens. Unless you plan on chasing eclipses around the world, it may not make the best economic sense to buy an expensive glass filter for a single event. I'm planning on using a mylar film filter that's big enough to fit over my largest telephoto lens. A Google search for "solar eclipse camera filters" will help you find the right filter for you, and eclipse2017.org has good information on how to photograph the eclipse.

Speaking of lenses, although the sun looks huge to us, in the frame of a camera, it's actually rather small. You'll want to use a telephoto lens in the 400mm or larger range. On the other hand, a smaller lens will allow you to photograph the effect of the eclipse on the surrounding environment.

Finally, don't forget that this is a rare and short-lived event. Don't get so wrapped up in taking photos or updating social media that you actually miss it — soak it all in.

Happy Trails!


Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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