My 4-camera 4K eclipse video and about traffic from the Eclipse


The Eclipse of 2017 caused dire traffic warnings, even from myself. Since a total eclipse is the most amazing thing you will see, and one was coming to a rich country where almost everybody owns a car, and hundreds of millions live within a day's drive -- I wondered how we would not have horrendous traffic. (You can see my main Eclipse report and gallery here or see all my Eclipse articles.)

Also look out below for a new 4K video I made from having 4 different video cameras running around the eclipse. I have started you 3 minutes in for the short-attention-span world, but you might also enjoy the 3 minutes leading up as the excitement builds. Even on an HD display, be sure to click through to Youtube to watch it full screen.

As described, the 4 cameras are two 4K cell phones facing forward and back, plus an HD video from a 1200mm superzoom camera and snippets of 4K video and stills from the main telescope and Sony A7rII.

The big places for predicted bad traffic were central Oregon, because it was the place with the best weather that was closest to everybody from Seattle to Los Angeles, and areas of South Carolina which were closest for the whole eastern seaboard. At a popular Eclipse site, they had a detailed analysis of potential traffic but in many cases, it was quite wrong.

The central Oregon spine around the tiny town of Madras did get really bad traffic, as in reports of 4 to 6 hours to get out. That was not unexpected, since the area does not have very many roads, and is close to Washington and relatively close to California. At the same time, a lot of traffic diverted to the Salem area, which got a nice clear sky forecast. It has an interstate and many other roads. Planning ahead, Madras was the best choice because the weather is much more unpredictable west of the Cascades. But once the forecast became clear, many people from Seattle, Portland and California should have shifted to the more populated areas with the larger roads.

I decided, since it was only 2 hours more driving to Weiser (on the Oregon/Idaho border) but much less traffic, to go to the Snake River valley. It was the right choice -- there was almost no traffic leaving Weiser. In fact, Weiser did not get overwhelmed with people as had been expected, disappointing the businesses. Many thought that a large fraction of Boise would have tried to get up to that area, but they didn't. We actually wandered a bit and ended up over the river in a school field in Annex, Oregon.

There was no problem finding space, even for free.

This is a pattern we've seen many times now -- dire predictions of terrible traffic, then almost nothing. It turns out the predictions work too well. The famous Carmageddon in Los Angeles never materialized -- even with a major link cut, traffic was lighter than normal.

This is, in turn a tragedy. It seems a lot of people did not go see the eclipse because they were scared of bad traffic. What a great shame.

4K Video

At my sight I had 4 cameras recording video. I set up two cell phones, both able to do 4K, looking at our group from in front and behind. The one behind I put in portrait mode, almost capturing the sun, to show that view, while the one in front showed us looking at the eclipse and also the shadow approaching on the hills.

As always seems to be the case, things go wrong with eclipse photography. The behind camera did not quite capture the sun, and the forward camera crashed about 12 seconds into totality. In addition, every time I shoot in portrait mode, I curse the decision, because 4K viewing is definitely only done on landscape mode displays for now.

I had an older super-zoom camera doing a video of all of totality. It had a poor solar filter on it, since totality was my goal. It could only shoot HD. I set it for a nice diamond ring exposure but that overexposes the corona. I think I might consider a shorter exposure next time, or possibly auto exposure with a 2 stop compensation.

Finally the Sony A7RII which took the still shots also shot 3 4K videos through the main telescope. One of the starting diamond ring, and two at different exposures during totality.

I have weaved all this into a video of the run-up to totality and the event itself. I inserted 4 still images as well of what you could see in bioculars or telescope. The most realistic part of any eclipse video, though, is the audio of the reactions of the people. The video and stills don't match the look of the eclipse, but the audio does the job.

In this video you can also clearly see the approach of the shadow on the hills behind us, which is nice. No shadow bands were visible. You can also get a little sense of the darkness. The videos from the cell phones had auto exposure, so they compensate for the darkness, but you can tell from things like the increased noise and the brightness from screens just how dark it has actually gotten.


I saw the eclipse at Madras and wrote a story about my experiences on this trip. For reasons that are described in the story, my photography is not as good as yours but I got really good audio and a sense of what it was like to see a solar eclipse with tens of thousands of people around you.

Hope you enjoy it.

From accounts the Madras area traffic may have been the worst in the nation. It's why I selected Weiser (also less forest fire, I hoped.)

I notice you said "glasses off" after the first diamond ring. The Diamond ring is one of the most spectacular parts of the eclipse and it is a shame that many people miss it due to eclipse glasses overstressing. You can watch 2-3 seconds of diamond ring just fine, I never heard of an eclipse chaser getting eye damage from doing so, and we all do so. In fact in my video you will see me, after the ring, holding up my thumb to cover the bright spot because you can watch 5-10 more seconds of eclipse that way.

I am torn about the level of warnings that go out about eclipses. I have seen people, in videos, trying to watch totality through the glasses, confused because they see nothing while everybody else is cheering. Usually they figure it out after a while, or somebody tells them. And a lot of people miss the diamond ring. And huge numbers of people stay in the 95%+ zone since, using glasses, totality is more interesting (like an eclipse under clouds) but not worth the trip. (Actually, I would find totality under clouds to be worth a decent trip.)

What I said was "patches off" but the audio is muddy enough that I can see how you heard it as "glasses off". I taught a bunch of eclipse novices about the benefits of using an eyepatch to dark adapt one eye to let you see more detail in colors in the Corona hence the pictures of people with things over one eye. I instructed them to take off their solar filter glasses when I called out diamond ring and to take off the patches after diamond ring was gone in order to preserve what dark adaptation they had.

In my video of the crowd, you also see me holding up my hand because I looked up way too soon but the color of the Corona and the sky was just so captivating I had a hard time not looking.

I saw that. I bought several eclipse ago some red goggles designed to be worn before an eclipse to dark adapt while still seeing to get things done. I have never managed to wear them. Did the eyepatch approach work? Or make it worse?

the eye patch works fine. you need to get accustomed to unbalanced vision (one eye adapted, the other not) but the dark adaptation is worth it for me. the red goggles may increase dark adaptation but the red light warps your color sense (green after image).

"While traffic was mostly steady throughout the weekend, John Day did experience a hefty
backup along Highway 26 immediately following the eclipse on Monday. Green said the line
of cars stretched for eight miles east toward Prairie City, and members of the Oregon National
Guard were brought in to direct the flow of traffic downtown."

Coming from central California, I thought as you did -- it was only a couple of extra hours
or so to head farther East instead of simply up the I-5. I figured Eastern Oregon would
be the farthest from major population centers like Seattle, Portland, etc., so I drove up to
John Day and headed East. Driving through "downtown" John Day the day before the
eclipse was kind of like driving through Truckee or by the Santa Cruz beaches on an average
weekend. The locals probably thought it was a big deal, but people from populated regions
have undoubtedly experienced worse.

Many fields with signs advertising space for eclipse watchers. Going rate was $100 for RVs,
$75 for tents. Dunno if that was per day or per stay. I found a lovely meadow in a nearby
National Forest that was perfect for viewing and camped there for free. After the eclipse I
determined it was better timing for my return journey to wait until the following morning,
so I avoided the traffic jam reported above.

Add new comment