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Trending: This Summer's Eclipse Led to Some Astonishing Filmmaking

By David Schonauer   Wednesday August 7, 2019


July 2 was a dark day for some people.

A total solar eclipse brought a brief blackout to regions of the Pacific and South America. And filmmakers were prepared.

San Francisco-based outdoor photographer Ted Hesser, for instance, was in Chile to work on an indie film that would feature a scene using totality as a backdrop — the first time, according to PetaPixel, that this was ever attempted.

Hesser, who captured viral images of a climber in totality during the 2017 solar eclipse in the United States, had been hired to consult on cinematography for the upcoming movie Nomad (described as a “romantic science fiction film”) from director Taron Lexton.

“The logistics, timing, and sheer blue-collar work required to make this happen was staggering,” Hesser tells PetaPixel. “From positioning, to camera rigging, to rehearsing, to wardrobe, to sound, to moving big boulders in a small rectangle so that the cinema cameras could move freely. It was a huge effort.”  A team of 10 spent three 12-hour days to prep the shot so that when the total eclipse happened, they were ready, he says.

“Totality was so hectic,” he recalls. “During the 2 minutes of totality, we set up 3-4 shots over the length of about a football field, on uneven cactus-strewn land, running in the dark with massive tripods and an Arri Alexa LF camera with a 1500mm cinema lens.”

Hesser also shot stills for the film (above). “Murphy’s law in full effect, my tripod actually broke right at totality,” Hesser tells PetaPixel. “So I went hand-held in a split-second decision. I also had a 2x teleconverter on a Nikon 500mm f/5.6 prime lens but decided that I wanted to use a higher aperture in the moment to have more striking sun flares. The 2x teleconverter was creating weird artifacts so I took that off rather quickly as well.”

Meanwhile, in Córdoba, Argentina, landscape photographer Leandro Pérez was working on a timelapse of the eclipse. Pérez specializes in astrophotography — experience, he notes at his blog, that came in handy during the eclipse.

“I shot timelapses of a total lunar eclipse in the past, but when I got into the planning of the solar eclipse, I realized it was something completely different, specially because totality is something that happens REALLY fast, and depending where you are in the path of totality, it could last even less than what you might expect,” he writes.

Here is his timelapse:

At his website, Pérez describes in some detailing how he pulled off the tricky timelapse, from planning to execution and post-production. “To get a good time-lapse, it’s better to shoot several minutes before and after totality. Using a wide angle lens during partial phases, you can’t really appreciate any change in the light because the Sun is overexposed,” he notes.

“During totality,” he adds, “the light drops about 10.5 stops in relation to the Sun at high noon.”

To plan shooting locations, Pérez relied on the NASA eclipse website and other planning apps to again confirm locations and exact times of totality in Almafuerte, Córdoba. He spent a week on site, scouting locations.

Pérez shot with several cameras in place — a Canon 6D, a Canon 60D, and a Canon 5D III — and a variety of lenses: a Canon 70-200 f/4 lens, a Samyang 24mm f/1.4 lens, and a Sigma 14-24 f/2.8 lense. (He lists all his gear at his website.) In total he shot 2,895 photos to create the timelapse.

He also created a BTS video, which is in Spanish.

Interestingly, Pérez notes that he followed the advice of a friend who had previously seen total solar eclipses and automated everything. “[H]e was so right, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing during totality. I wouldn’t have been able to change settings on all the cameras if I had used Manual mode,” he writes.

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