Astrophotography—and particularly eclipse photography—can be a game of minutes. Capturing the perfect photo often comes down to the detailed research and extensive planning that happens in the weeks, and even months, prior to a big event. Photographer Julian Diamond is more than familiar with the work it takes to get a great eclipse photo. Diamond, who is based in New York's Hudson Valley, enjoyed success with his 2018 photo of the full moon centered on a fire tower. Now, he was ready to use this landmark again to celebrate the most recent partial solar eclipse.
Diamond's work went viral once again; this time when he shared the photo of his sketched composition next to the finish photo, which matched perfectly. The attention his tweet attracted shows just how hungry the public is to learn more about how this type of photography works. For Diamond, it was a nice reward for the long-term work he'd been doing in photographing the forest fire tower next to celestial bodies.
This time, perfect symmetry wasn't going to be possible, so Diamond needed to think through his composition. “I wanted the open side of the eclipse—the ‘horns'—to frame the tower, instead of directing the eye to the edge of the frame,” Diamond tells My Modern Met. “Finally, it was important to me that the Sun appear bigger in the frame, relative to the tower, than the Moon did in the earlier work. Although there’d be less detail in the tower because of the greater distance, I felt it was crucial to visually communicate the immense difference in magnitude between the two objects.”
Finding the perfect vantage point took some time, as Diamond spent months scouting fire towers in the region to get a good fit. While he'd been hoping for a wide vantage point to allow for corrections, there were no good candidates within a few hours of his house. So, he returned to his favorite local tower, which was featured in his 2018 photo. In order to have access to the location, he needed to get special off-hour permission to enter the park. With that in hand, he was able to get in and execute his vision.
In the end, it was the intense scouting that proved to be the biggest challenge. “Satellite imagery is good at highlighting obvious clearings, but small openings, like the one I exploited, are usually identified only through physical scouting,” he shared. “Knowing the view is there, tantalizingly close but obscured by just a few layers of trees–that gets frustrating. By all means, I should have abandoned this composition after my first fruitless day on-location and started working on an alternative plan. Doubly so on the second scouting day. But sunrise eclipses are exceedingly rare at any given location, and I wanted this shot to be unequivocally mine, so I had to press on.”
All of his hard work paid off, as once again he's had a photo go viral. And his photograph proves that even partial eclipses can make for stunning imagery. Now we just have to wait until the next big celestial event to see what he'll come up with next.
Photographer Julian Diamond's tweet showing his sketch and final photo of a partial eclipse has gone viral.
The plan The shot pic.twitter.com/aIvQ9K5KxZ
— Julian Diamond (@juliancd38) June 10, 2021
Diamond spent months scouting the perfect location, which ended up being a small opening in the trees.
His sequence of photos shows the eclipse slowly rising into position.