Pitfalls of an Eclipse Flight, Lessons learnt

It’s easy to be wise after the event- Some wise man

Ok, recently you may have heard a couple of space-nuts chartered a B737 jet to chase the July 22nd eclipse from a height of 41000 feet. I guess considering the monsoon, it was a good idea that would guarantee that you atleast got to see the eclipse. Passengers paid approximately Rs 80,000 for “sun side” seats and Rs 29,000 for “earth side” seats. Personally I don’t know why would I pay to see the sun’s shadow on earth.

From that point of view it was a good idea, considering places like Taregna, Patna, Shanghai and most parts of India got clouded or washed out!

However people on board with cameras and photography equipment will be kicking themselves because of some things that got overlooked. When you dig deep into your pocket for an experience like this a little more research should have gone into it

It may me useful to remember that while shooting from a plane’s windows, ( yes.. in case you forgot, you’re inside the plane and you have to take photos from inside the aircraft’s double paned window, both of which usually have thousands of microscratches) two results are inevitable

The image of a bright object may have double reflections from both window surfaces. Unfortunately this will always be there and playing with the camera focus cannot get rid of it. The sun will be at infinity and the extended light path due to reflection does not affect it. The result??, see for yourself

Look at this picture of totality taken from the eclipse flight, if you look carefully, there is a double reflection glaring at you at the bottom edge of the image. This was a specimen frame drawn from video taken by the BBC media crew on board the flight. We checked this with other videos taken by AAJ TAK etc, which also had the same issue.

There is also a second problem. As mentioned earlier, the windows are usually scratchy and not very clean. It is pretty easy to get rid of these scratches out of focus in the image. However with a eclipse, especially the diamond ring a big quality issue arrives.


The microscratches on the window scatter light in all directions completely ruining the photo. Both images above were taken aboard the eclipse flight.

One of the reports we heard from the people conducting photographic experiments onboard had another unforeseen issue, Apparently the plane went off charted course to bypass some clouds, sending their automation software “Eclipse Orchestrator” haywire

Pity!

If you were careful in reading what I wrote, yes there are CLOUDS at 41000 feet. We got wind of this fact a day before the eclipse. A curious me and Vishnu did ask the Captain of our Spicejet flight to Varanasi when we landed at Babatpur for the eclipse

So if you are serious about taking pictures of totality, you might want to keep these details in mind before swiping that credit card.

The views expressed in this article are by the Author only, and may not be shared by the AAAD as a whole

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