Recalling the 2017 Solar Eclipse in Carbondale


A family’s unforgettable journey to observe and photograph a celestial wonder.

In August 21, 2017, the United States experienced a rare total solar eclipse, and one of the prime viewing spots was Carbondale, Illinois. Due to its convenient location, Carbondale became a focal point for skywatchers and astronomers, drawing thousands of visitors from across the nation. 


This was my second full Solar Eclipse. The first Eclipse was in my home town in India on Aug 11 1999. I have very vivid memories of observing it from my work building roof through stacked up X-Ray films (personally would not recommend this, knowing what I know now). 


Like everyone, my planning started around 2 – 3 years prior to the eclipse. Having observed a total Solar Eclipse prior to this event, my prime focus was imaging this time. The purpose of choosing a place like Carbondale was to make sure it was within drivable distance with my family along with the equipment from New Jersey.  Equipment selection was an iterative process of selecting and eliminating over the course of the year as I gained knowledge on imaging eclipse. Every clear weekend was spent in my backyard testing equipment i.e camera, mount, scope, filters etc eventually locking on an equatorial mount with a side by side telescope with two cameras taking images and video simultaneously. I also attended a lot of eclipse talks from experts by participating  in person and over the web, this helped me a lot to gain knowledge. 


Our hotel was located in Marion, IL which was booked around 1.5 years earlier. Luckily our reservation survived the onslaught of cancellations by various hotels around. My initial location of choice was Marion itself however the hotel kept giving me conflicting information on using the hotel grounds for imaging (maybe due to liability issues). Eventually decided on Carbondale as it was 20 mins from Marion, IL. Our location in Carbondale was a beautiful school ground in front of a lake. The staff was very gracious to give me access a day ahead where I was able to polar align my mount and mark the spots for my tripod. 


On the day before the eclipse, I practiced taking bracketed shots on camera in my hotel room using a stopwatch, while my family visited various eclipse events around the town. In the evening before going out for dinner we visited the location of the eclipse and set up my mount with polar alignment and marked the spots with chalk powder.


On the day of the eclipse we arrived early in the morning, set up my mount on the marked spots and mounted the scopes. The equipment used were Takahashi 106F5 and WO 71mmF6.9 mounted side by side on a Atlas EQ6 mount with two Sony cameras (A7R2 and A7S2). Once I set up, I walked around to meet other folks who were also set up, two who were set up right by me were Brett Paul and his sons, a retired police officer turned marriage photographer who had about 10 cameras setup and David Agranoff a sci-fi and horror genre author. Both kept everyone entertained with their stories during the partial phase. The sky was completely clear throughout the partial phase however when we got near the totality a single cloud moved right over the sun. We all missed the start of totality however around the 1 min mark in totality phase it moved to give us this amazing view. We remember when totality hit as we were clouded out it became dark, the temperature dipped and a lot of lights around came on, we heard sounds of crickets and various insects. For those fortunate enough to witness it, the sight was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Cheers and applause erupted from the gathered crowd, mingling with the sounds of cameras clicking and telescopes adjusting. Against the backdrop of the darkened sky, stars and planets twinkled into view, adding to the sense of wonder and amazement. We also heard a lot of booing coming from the nearby Saluki stadium as they missed the entire totality with clouds. Right on cue once the totality ended the cloud conveniently moved away for a clear other half of the partial phase.


Despite the fleeting nature of totality obscured by clouds, I managed to capture several images along with video that would serve as lasting reminders of this once-in-a-lifetime event. The sense of awe and wonder we experienced as a family and witnessing the eclipse and recording this historic event through my lens is something I will never forget.


Here are some of the images which were captured by me along with the video to give an account of surrounding commentary by folks near me.


Raw Video – Recommend to view on a large screen


Was also lucky to be featured on CBS for their eclipse segment (YouTube link courtesy of CBS Chicago Station)


Samir Patel is a member of AAA from 2017, was first introduced to AAA by Stan Honda’s class on Intro To Night Sky Photography. He works as an IT admin for NYC Housing Agency. He loves everything about cameras, imaging, astronomy and makes mean finger licking Indian curries for the family and extended family members. He loves reading and is a self-professed sucker for good stories. He is a father of two teenage daughters whom he would like to inspire with love of science and wonders of night sky.