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Totality or Bust, MichiganScapes Travels, Special Edition

Welcome to a special edition of the MichiganScapes Travels Blog! An event that has been a long-time planning and waiting for with the utmost excitement from both myself (Ryan Jakubowski) and Christina Wiggins. On April 8th, 2024, the Solar Eclipse passed over Mexico, The United States from Texas, up through Illinois and Indiana as well as Ohio, a tiny sliver of Michigan, and into New York, and also part of Canada. It is labeled as the Great North American Eclipse.

Having a Backup

Something like this event, takes a lot of planning and having A LOT of backups. Plans A-D were discussed between Christina Wiggins and I each day! But why? Well the main reason is the clouds! The forecast of cloud cover had gone back and forth more times than the old pirate ship ride at the fair, LOL! From a total cloud cover in the entire path of the eclipse to breaks, and then clear down south, then clear up near Michigan, and finally ending with about 20-30% coverage the day of the event. Weather wise, it worked out great, but then there was another part to take into account, THE PEOPLE and TRAFFIC!

The day of the event, after determining where would be the best area to see the eclipse based on cloud cover we then had a new problem to deal with, and that was the overwhelming amount of traffic that would be heading into the path of totality! Michigan had one city in Totality, Luna Pier. Originally as our first choice, after doing our research, we realized this would not be possible! The city during the last eclipse was jam packed as of 6:00AM and the spaces available for parking were very limited. Those orange cones, yup they were also all around the area, so because of all this, we decided on our 3rd location and plan, Waterville, Ohio.

The Bridge

If you haven't noticed already, I am someone who loves abandoned places and broken down structures. for me, the decision was easy, once I know it would likely work. The Interurban electric Bridge of , Ohio was our spot. We left at 7:00am from Royal Oak and made our way south, wondering if we would be overtaken by other photographers and onlookers heading to Ohio like us, we decided to use Google Maps to avoid expressways, this was actually a very smart idea! It worked quite nicely, taking us through areas of construction, but mainly a very clear route down Telegraph Rd, into Ohio. As we pulled up to the bridge, there was no-one there, there was an overlook area with 3-4 spots, and though that was perfect! We decided to grab some good old Taco Bell and use the bathroom because it would be a while of waiting, luckily I had my trusty blue water jug just incase! LOL. we went to check out the other side of the bridge to see what the best view to get was and decided to go back to the original area. As we made our way back to the spot, it was filled up! Luckily, there was a park just to the south of the bridge that made for a perfect setup. Bathrooms and a grassy, but quite muddy area was our final spot. Our original plan was to take pictures with a foreground and the eclipse, but it turned out to be better focusing on the eclipse in a zoomed in fashion. Showing the details of the Bailey's Beads, prominences, Diamond Ring and Corona.

(Click to enlarge Images)

The Experience

I have seen many different events in my life, and photographed just as many of them, but nothing comes close to seeing the Solar Eclipse. There is a saying, "totality or bust", I always wondered about this, how much different could less than 1% be in an eclipse? Detroit was getting 99% coverage, we were very close to staying in the city, and while I am sure it was still a wonderful site to see, totality was TOTALLY DIFFERENT! The difference was literally night and day, if you were one mile off, it would not be the same. As the partial eclipse started, we put on our glasses, loaded our cameras with new batteries and SD cards and found that great big ball in the sky. I had 2 cameras setup, one of which decided to not track the sun right before the eclipse, (got to love technology). We watched as the sun, started falling behind the sliver of the moon passing in front of it. Every few minutes, another part would darken, forming a Mrs Pac-Man shape. As we got closer to totality, the skies began to get darker, little by little. Luckily the clouds were out of the area, and we had a clear shot of the event! As the moon covered more and more, the excitement and nerves grew nearer. We had about 2.5 minutes to get the shots we wanted, or wait until 20 years for it to happen, or travel to Iceland / Spain in 2026 to get it. As we got to about 7 minutes left, fear struck Christina as her camera errored out... The shutter did not click, the picture did not take, the battery had died, which never happened before, all right before the big event, REALLY? Swapping out the new battery at first didn't work, but when something doesn't work, let it sit for a few, then try again, and this time that worked! After clicking the shutter number of times, the sweet sound of "CLICK" , the image was black, we had to find the sun again, get the focus and carry on our mission. WE DID IT, success, the sun was found, and just in the nick of time, the moon made its totality pass in front of the sun. Baileys beads showed for mere seconds, followed by the prominences (red solar flares coming off the surface) and then, the most beautiful part, the Diamond Ring. (See why its called that below) The shot we had wanted for the entire planning, happened! The entire experience was absolutely unreal. It was otherworldly, that is the only way to explain it. The temperature dropped significantly, giving us goosebumps, not sure if it was directly related to temperature or the sheer excitement overcome in us. The skies turned dark, and not just a, its cloudy out, I mean, the eeriest, must beautiful form of twilight you have ever seen. A 360 degree sunset all around us, and skies dark enough to show stars above, all while a sliver of golden corona graced us with the show for 2.5 minutes. During this time, we had our classes off and were able to see it without any filters, which made it even more amazing. Seeing that in real time and watching the glow and environment around us... chefs kiss! Enjoy some of the shots during this time.

(Click to enlarge) - Images by Ryan Jakubowski

Images by Christina Wiggins

The way home was filled with reminiscing about what we just experienced, and a whole lot more traffic! We did not see any of the cars we did as we traveled down, but the ride home took almost double the time. It didn't matter to me at all though, because seeing that eclipse in person, in the zone of totality was the most surreal experience ever. I hope every one of you had a wonderful experience during this event. If you are ever on the fence about going to totality or not, just remember, they say totality or bust for a reason! While the show might still be great outside the zone, inside is a whole other creature!


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