Hilts hoping for clear skies during eclipse photo trip

Swift Current’s Craig Hilts is preparing to photograph the total eclipse on August 21.

A chance to photograph a total solar eclipse was too tempting an opportunity for Swift Current’s Craig Hilts to pass up.

Traditionally a storm chaser who has captured a series of impressive tornado images, Hilts is hoping for clear skies when he travels 1,000 kilometres south to take eclipse photographs from the path of totality on Monday, August 21.

“I’m pretty excited about this. I enjoy storm chasing, but this one actually I’m kind of really pumped about it,” he said while making final plans for his trip.

Hilts is heading to Grand Targhee Resort in the Teton Mountain Range in northwest Wyoming, where he will photograph the eclipse from a mountaintop near the Grand Teton National Park.

The avid photographer will be using three cameras to capture North America’s first total solar eclipse since 1979.

“When I go out to take photographs, I’m always looking for that unique moment,” he said. “You have to be there at the right place at the right time.”

“The eclipse is kind of in that same vein. I’ve got two minutes and 30 seconds to get the shot, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

There will be millions of people converging on total eclipse viewing locations across the United States on Monday, but cloudy skies could impact viewing locations.

“For me, that’s the iconic view spot that I want to shoot from,” Hilts said of his mountain top vantage point. “But I’ve actually started looking at the forecast as of now to try and see if that place is going to get socked in with clouds. Then I can move to Idaho, which is a pretty good location with very little clouds, or I can go east to Nebraska or Wyoming.”

He has been planning his trip for over a year and a half, but he quickly found out that he was not alone in his plans. Hotels in the eclipse path have been fully booked for over a year, and even campground spaces are full, so he will be taking advantage of dispersed camping just in order to have a place to stay.

Hilts will be using special solar filters on his cameras in order to protect his imaging sensors, and he has special glasses to safely view the progression of the eclipse.

“During the whole solar eclipse, leading up to the totality, you can not look at it with the naked eye. You need some protection, and sun glasses are not good enough. You need dedicated solar viewing glasses,” he reminds people.

At the moment of totality you can look directly at the eclipse, but no places in Canada are in this eclipse path.

“In Swift Current here, we’ll actually see roughly about 80 per cent coverage of the sun. But there will be no moment that you can take off your solar glasses.”

While he has vivid memories of watching the 1979 partial eclipse as an elementary student in Regina, he is looking forward to being in the midst of a total eclipse. At his location the sky will go dark and stars will be visible for the brief portion of the total eclipse.

“So to experience all of that will be an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Eye protection needed to view the eclipse in the Southwest

Residents of the Southwest might be tempted to sneak a quick peak at Monday’s partial solar eclipse, but no one should look directly at the sun without the necessary eye safety in place.

Looking directly at even a sliver of a solar eclipse can cause serious eye damage or blindness. So, with the Southwest set to experience approximately 80 per cent coverage of the sun, people should not look directly at the event.

People who hope to view the eclipse need to utilize special glasses and safety filters to ensure they do not suffer eye damage. Sunglasses do not provide enough protection from the harmful rays of the sun.

Individuals hoping to photograph the event also need special solar filters in order to avoid camera damage.

The next total solar eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024 when it crosses Mexico, the USA and Canada.

Individuals wishing to experience a total solar eclipse in the Southwest will have to wait until August 2044, when Swift Current and area will be in the path of totality.