Eclipse art: Kelly Houle and Ben Goren

If you’ve been reading here semi-regularly, you’ll know that last Sunday there was a convocation of WEIT regulars at the Grand Canyon. The occasion was a rare annular eclipse, with the chance to photograph, paint, and view it in an incomparable setting. I now have some tangible artistic output from that viewing, namely the paintings of Kelly Houle and the photos of Ben Goren.

Kelly did three paintings, and you can actually bid for them on eBay (see below).  Here’s her description of the experience and the auction:

 I set up around 3pm at Lipan Point, and did between 5 and 10 small paintings before it got too dark. I didn’t see anyone else painting that day, but there were a lot of photographers and tourists around. It was a strange experience painting something you’re not supposed to look at for very long! I would look for a few seconds through binoculars or eclipse glasses, then go back to the painting. You can see the striking difference in colors from the two kinds of filters I used. I had no idea what to expect as far as the colors in the canyon or the quality of the light. I thought it we would see reds, but the colors ended up being cool gray-blues and purples. When the sun was eclipsed, we were able to see Venus for a few minutes before it disappeared again as the light returned.

Now that the bugs are all scraped off, I’ve set up a little Ebay auction, which starts today [Saturday]. I’m selling the three original oil paintings below, and there are some other things listed as well. My new Ebay shop is called BooksIlluminated.

The three oil paintings are starting at ridiculously low prices ($20!), and I’m hoping that readers here will raise the stakes, even though I badly want the third one depicted below.  Here are the paintings and descriptions from Kelly’s Ebay site:

This is an original oil painting done on site at the Grand Canyon on Sunday, May 21, 2012 during the annular eclipse. This is what I saw looking through filtered binoculars at around 6pm as the moon began to pass in front of the sun. This is a rare painting of an annular eclipse created in the plein air style–outdoors, in real time, as I observed the event.

ORIGINAL FRAMED OIL PAINTING. Signed by the artist; 4in x 4in canvas (outer frame dimensions are 9in x 9in)

This is an original oil painting done on site at the Grand Canyon on Sunday, May 21, 2012 during the annular eclipse. This is what I saw looking through eclipse glasses at around 6pm as the moon began to pass in front of the sun. This is a rare painting of an annular eclipse created in the plein air style–outdoors, in real time, as I observed the event.

Annular Eclipse, by Kelly M. Houle. Original Framed Oil Painting, Signed by the artist, 4in x 4in canvas (outer frame dimensions are 9in x 9in)

And my favorite, which I hope some reader doesn’t acquire by outbidding me!:

This is an original oil painting done on site at the Grand Canyon on Sunday, May 21, 2012 during the annular eclipse. This was the scene around 6:30pm as the moon eclipsed the sun. As the sky darkened, I was able to see Venus, which I painted in the upper left corner. When the moon passed by, the sky brightened, and Venus disappeared once again until sunset. This is a rare painting of an annular eclipse created in the plein air style–outdoors, in real time, as I observed the event.

Annular Eclipse, by Kelly M. Houle
Original Framed Oil Painting. Signed by the artist; 4in x 12in gallery wrapped canvas, unframed

Kelly at work:

Apparently Ben stayed up last last night so I could have some of his photos to post this morning.  The wonderful photo below (which he calls a “first draft”) captures the Canyon and the eclipse.  Ben’s notes:

I’m thinking of this as a good first draft. I’ll probably do more to it later, but I need to sleep on it at least a day or two, if not longer, It’s a composite of a half-dozen exposures that does a not-bad job of capturing what I experienced that day.

Not bad indeed! (Click to enlarge):

He adds:

…here’re thumbnails of the straight-out-of-the-camera pictures I wound up using in the composite. At least a couple of them I wound up developing at different exposures as additional layers….

Ben sent three other photos.  He clearly has talents beyond fondling the intestines of our Savior!:

Here’re three somewhat-representative telephoto shots of just the sun. All are taken with a 400 mm f/2.8 lens with a 2X teleconverter for an effective 800 mm focal length, then cropped and reduced for emailing.

First is shortly after the Moon made contact with the Sun. You can see a line of sunspots paralleling the Sun’s equator. If you think about the geometry, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Moon followed the line of sunspots. Oh — and each of those sunspots is bigger than the entire Earth, just to put things in perspective.


Next up is the archetypal ring of an eclipsed Sun. The reason the Moon’s outline is slightly irregular is because that’s the actual profile of the Moon, what with all the craters and mountains and what-not. And it’s slightly off-center because we were slightly off the centerline of the path of the eclipse; some dozens of miles to the north, it would have been perfectly centered. But then it wouldn’t have been over the Grand Canyon….

Last is the Sun sinking into the many, many miles distant far, far rim of the Canyon. It’s a double eclipse, really — the Sun, Moon, and Earth all lined up. The sunspots are still visible as are the irregularities in the Moon’s outline, and the change in color is entirely due to the Earth’s atmosphere.

I’m proud of the talents and heterogeneity of the readers here: we have scientists (even a Nobel Laureate or two who lurk), teachers, mathematicians, librarians, goat farmers, musicians—you name it.  Who on earth could accuse us of scientism, or of being blind to the beauty and diversity of life? Many thanks to Kelly and Ben for sharing their art.  And don’t forget to bid for Kelly’s paintings!

28 Comments

  1. daveau
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    “And my favorite, which I hope some reader doesn’t acquire by outbidding me!”

    But you don’t mind if we run up the price a little bit, though, do you? My favorite, as well. Beautiful, Kelly.

    Ben must have been up all night putting that together. He was shooting 7 shot brackets, the maximum, to capture all the light levels, and each one needs individual tweaking to bring out the aspects he is looking for. I’d guess that he also composited in the eclipse shot from the other camera, so it was a lot of work. It will take a long while before he is satisfied.

    What you may not know is that there is enough detail there to make a “door-size” print that will still look sharp. A capability that he has with a monster Canon large format inkjet in his house. Wow!

    • Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      Actually, the eclipsed sun part is entirely from (multiple developments of) that almost-all-black frame Jerry has on the lower right. There’re too many differences between the two lenses (perspective, geometry, flare, etc.) for it to have worked to composite in the one from the big lens. The challenge there was getting the Sun to be white on a blue sky, rather than white on a white sky (or white on a black sky surrounded by a blue sky…).

      b&

      • Posted May 26, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Picture the third with just a touch more zoom zoom zoom in it would have brought out those irregularities in enough detail to have made a fine print for Bailey’s beads. Nice camera work. =^_^=

        Also, my first thought when I saw the ginormous one was that it would be a breathtakingly sublime jigsaw puzzle.

    • Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      So Ben, what do you do with all that equipment — and talent! — when you’re not taking pictures of eclipses?

  2. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Thank you Ben and Kelly.

    And, thanks to Jerry, too, for posting. L

  3. Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos, Ben! The composite is stunning. I’m so thankful that you and Dave were there to scout out the location ahead of time. Thank you both!

    I can see I got the sun too high and smaller than it actually looked. I should have stared at it longer.

    • daveau
      Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      Ba-dum-bum!

      Ben’s is an impression, too. You couldn’t see that with the naked eye (and viewing glasses).

    • Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Actually…you nailed it, perfectly.

      If you look at mine, you’ll see the Sun is about as far above the horizon as the river is below it — exactly as in yours. And they’re about the same width, again in both. Colors match, too.

      What’s throwing you here is that mine is a very wide angle view, as wide as it gets before “ultra-wide.” The perspective, especially with the compression of the foreground elements, is (intentionally) a bit disconcerting.

      Also, this lens had no filter on it, meaning that the ring of the Sun looks significantly thicker than it actually was due to overexposure and lens flare; compare it with the filtered telephoto shots, which again match what you painted.

      I’m actually amazed at what I was able to get out of it…shooting directly into the Sun is the very definition of the ultimate torture test for a lens. There’s just the one faint concentric circle of visible flare artifact running through the bottom third of the frame, and the overall loss of contrast is no worse (and perhaps even better) than what happens with human eyes.

      I’ll have to see if I captured Venus with any of the exposures. Judging from your painting, she was probably much too high in the sky for my framing…but, if she was in a later bracket, I just might have to coposite her in nonetheless….

      Anyway, it just goes to show that no technique of artistic exression ever goes obsolete. It took me thousands of dollars of modern technology and many hours staring at a computer just to do what you did with some ground-up rock mixed in glue spread across a piece of cloth — and in far less time, too, I’m sure. I still have no clue how you do that.

      Yours,

      b&

      • JBlilie
        Posted May 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Could flare protection, indeed!

        • JBlilie
          Posted May 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          Good …

  4. Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    On a similar topic:

    New interview with Neil Armstrong (http://​thebottomline.cpaaustralia.​com.au) Has a neat simulated landing using Google, based on recent satellite images (LRO), compared side-by-side with footage taken from the lunar module.

  5. Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Holey sun god, prints of peace, oil of anointment, and wash my feets… this is truly spectacular!

  6. Dominic
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Very nice pictures everyone.

  7. bonetired
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Wonderful, quite wonderful. Thank you .

  8. Posted May 26, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Beautiful stuff, Kelly and Ben.

  9. still learning
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    WOW! Absolutely stunning! Is there a Nobel for painting and photography? Thank you, Kelly and Ben, for sharing your art.

  10. Posted May 26, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I just realized I forgot to give credit where credit is due — Dave was the trigger man for the telephoto shots.

    Sorry, Dave!

    Cheers,

    b&

    • daveau
      Posted May 26, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      I take no more credit than a chimp would take if he accidentally typed MacBeth. Ben did all the setup, I just pressed the button and prayed to Ceiling Cat that I wouldn’t screw up his once in a lifetime shot…

      But it was glorious, wasn’t it? This is the first chance I’ve had to reflect.

  11. David
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Great pictures, I have seen an eclipse, and I have had a ring of fire, but not at the same time.I think it is one of the times when, that over used word, awesome, is appropriate.

    “we have scientists (even a Nobel Laureate or two who lurk), teachers, mathematicians, librarians, goat farmers, musicians—you name it.”

    Jerry , you have a great site and quite rightly you can take pride in job well done, and your readeship, well some of it anyway.

    David, full time slacker, sorry

  12. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Kelly and Ben for this vicarious thrill!

    But Professor, did you have to reveal the fact that I am a goat farmer?

    Whoops. Darn it.

  13. Peg
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Wow. These are gorgeous. Thanks for posting!

  14. Grania Spingies
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Amazing work from both Kelly and Ben!

  15. JBlilie
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Well done, both of you! Ben your composite is really excellent. Obviously no possible way to capture that range with one exposure.

    I like your high-tone take on it: Everything is illuminated!

    The receding ridges are especially nice. Fade to blue …

    (I’m photo-biased since that’s my thing too.)

  16. darrelle
    Posted May 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Really spectacular, Ben, Kelly & daveau, all. As many have said already the composite image, even unfinished, is beautiful. I also very much like the horizon image, the last one. Would have loved to have been there.

    Thank you for sharing.

  17. TJR
    Posted May 27, 2012 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    The composite photo is truly excellent – thanks to all for sharing.

    I’ve not taken a photo for 20 years (not even with a phone) as I always find photos horribly disappointing in comparison to the Mark One Eyeball. Hence its always great to see a photo of precisely the stuff you can’t see in the normal way.

    The Natural History Museum in That London usually (always?) has a load of nature photos on display in the garden outside, I had a look at the latest bunch yesterday and its cracking stuff. No eclipses though, IIRC.

  18. Mary - Canada
    Posted May 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Amazing work. Thanks for sharing


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