21 Experience totality all by yourself
The 2017 eclipse, plus the events leading up to it, will combine to be a fabulous social affair. Totality itself, however, is a time that you should mentally shed your surroundings and focus solely on the sublime celestial dance above you. You’ll have time for conversations later.
22 Schedule an after-eclipse party or meal
Regarding No. 21, once the eclipse winds down, you’ll be on an emotional high for hours, and so will everyone else. There’s no better time to get together with family and friends and just chat. Fun!
23 Record your memories
Sometime shortly after the eclipse, when the event is still fresh in your mind, take some time to write, voice-record, or make a video of your memories, thoughts, and impressions. A decade from now — or, more specifically, just before the next U.S. total solar eclipse in 2024 — such a chronicle will help you relive this fantastic event. Have friends join in, too. Stick a video camera in their faces and capture 30 seconds from each of them. You’ll smile each time you watch it.
24 Don’t be in a rush afterward
Traffic, or the new term I have for what we all will experience on eclipse day — gridlock — will be horrendous after the event at some locations. And the sooner you try to leave, the worse it will be. Relax. Let the part of the eclipse between third and fourth contacts play out. Many people will view this portion as “what we saw before totality, but in reverse.” For this section, however, all the tension will be gone.
25 Don’t photograph it
This tip may sound strange coming from the photo editor of the best-selling astronomy magazine on Earth. But I’ve preached it to thousands of people whom I’ve led to far-flung corners of our planet to stand under the Moon’s shadow. True, few of them have thanked me afterward.
But I can tell you of upward of a hundred people who have told me with trembling voices, “I wish I’d followed your advice. I spent so much time trying to center the image and get the right exposures that I hardly looked at the eclipse at all.” How sad is that?
And here’s another point: No picture will capture what your eyes will reveal. Trust me, I’ve seen them all. Only the top 0.1 percent of photographers ever has come close. And you — no offense — with your off-the-shelf SLR or point-and-shoot pocket camera are not one of them.
Finally, why would you even consider looking down and fiddling with a camera when you could be looking up at all that heavenly glory? This eclipse will — at maximum — last 160 seconds. That’s it, friends. If your camera isn’t doing what you think it should, you’re going to lose valuable time adjusting it. There will be plenty of pics from imagers who have viewed a dozen of these events.
So just watch. Watch your first eclipse with your mouth agape, where your only distraction is occasionally wiping tears of joy from your eyes. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Once you come up with a course of action that lets you stay flexible with some of the details, you’ll feel a lot better as August 21, 2017, approaches. And the family and friends that you include surely will say, like Bill Murray’s character Dr. Peter Venkman in the movie Ghostbusters, “I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it!”