Last week was filled with excitement about the solar eclipse on Friday. I had bought eclipse glasses and made a filter for my camera from cardboard and a polymer sheet. I had never followed the weather forecast so intently as in the build-up to this event, but even on Friday morning I was still unsure where I should be going as the forecasts about the cloud cover varied wildly. In the end, I decided to head north-west, towards the areas with better weather prospects, and ended up on Coombe Hill in Buckinghamshire.
I was not the only one with that idea; around 50 people had congregated around the monument, including some photographers with very long telephoto lenses. The first hour of the eclipse came and went and all we saw was low cloud and mist down in the valley. At around 9.35, the supposed maximum coverage time, expectations turned to disappointment for most and the crowd began to depart. I tried to convince some students, who had set up a camera next to me, that there was still about an hour left of the whole phenomenon - but to no avail. They left a few minutes later. But the sky got brighter and brighter, until, finally, we got the first glimpse!
Not too impressive, I admit, but the breaks in the clouds became more frequent as time went on. And only an elderly lady and I were left on the hilltop to enjoy it! The breaks in the clouds still left the sun lightly covered so we were watching proceedings without eye cover - filter and glasses for my camera and me, ipad and pinhole cardboard for her.
I did make an attempt to use both the glasses and the filter later, when the sun seemed to be rather bright for a while, but I might as well have looked the other way - total blackout for my eyes and almost total blackout for the camera, even at ISO 6400. So off they came and I simply carried on turning the dials for aperture and shutter speed wildly back and forth, depending on cloud thickness. At the end, there were 2 happy people on the hill!
The lesson? Patience, patience and patience again. It's not over until it's over!