Total eclipse of August 11th, 1999

Observation near Vouziers, Northern France

It really was a rather precarious endeavour. Driving to the north of France, on an ordinary day in mid-week, hoping for the best, in order to go and see the total eclipse of the sun that was about to take place there, in the morning of August 11th. Of course I had started preparing this far too late, all hotels in the region had been fully booked for ages. The weather forecast, too, was rather gloomy: clouds, heavily overcast and this actually held for most of notrthern Europe. Driving through the night then, taking a nap in the car, hoping something worth while could be seen? Alone, naturally, because who in his right mind, not being a former amateur astronomer like me, would join me in such a crazy project?

Still, I decided I should go, such an occasion would not present itself again for a long time to come. Miraculously, I ran into a former girl friend who thought it hard on me to go alone on such a trip, and she agreed in joining me. So it got entertaining after all. After a tiring nightly drive to Vouziers, just across the Belgian-French border, we arrived at the designated spot well before the event. There really was time to catch up on some sleep. In the car, it was hardly comfortable and of course I was too tense to sleep, worrying about whether it was going to work.

We found a nice spot near the central line, according to my calculations, just outside of the village of Vouziers. The day started off not bad at all, cloudy, but with less than half of the sky covered, and the clouds moving rather swiftly. There should be opportunities to observe something, really...

The first dent in the sun can be noticed, sure, but after about ten minutes a large cloud covers the sun. And after that another, and yet another. Until a few minutes before totality the sky remains heavily overcast, the sun is then invisible for over an hour. This is absolutely nerve wrecking, did we really drive all the way to here for nothing? The most frustrating part is that we can look out over the surrounding fields for miles, and we can see many spots of sunlight on the earth. The urge to jump into the car and drive there is almost unbearable, yet I know it would be a stupid thing to do. Before we get there with the equipment, in an unfamiliar neighbourhood...

Suddenly, the cloud becomes transparent, it slides away and the sky opens. Lo and behold! After a few minutes the diamond ring twinkles in an ash-grey sky, over a surreal dim landscape. It looks like a scenery painting, reminding me of the Mesdag Panorama. It makes me shiver, this really is a moment never to forget! After that, the complete totality phase and the partial phase with the receding moon is freely visible. Talking about miracles...

Being unexperienced with photographing solar eclipses, I still took a series of photographs. Using my Minolta Dynax 700SI, equipped with a Minolta XI 100-300 mm zoom lens, mounted on a simple tripod, I took telephotos in the 300 mm zoom position. In de partial phase, when the moon receded, I used a filter before the lens, constructed from an eclipse shade. The results were quite satisfactory for me. Click on each of the six thumbnails below to view scans of these exposures.

Using my Olympus OM-2N camera, mounted on a gate with a pinch tripod, I took a multiple exposure picture with several phases of the ever growing sickle of the sun in a single frame. I did not find the result worth while.

zonnesikkel Parelsnoer - begin totaliteit Protuberansen: zonnevlammen - totaal Corona - maximaal Diamantring - einde totaliteit

Last updated April 15th, 2007
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