Shadow Dancing to Totality—A French Explorer/Photographer's Story of the Total Solar Eclipse at Smith Rock


September 30, 2017

When we went out on the River Trail the morning of the Total Solar Eclipse at Smith Rock on September 21, we ran into photographers and videographers from all over the country, and some far even further away, such as Nicolas Raspiengeas, an explorer/photographer from France on a quest to fulfill a dream. This is his story. 

From Jokulsarlon Glacier to Smith Rock. A Dream Sparked. A Dream Fulfilled.
Nicolas Raspiengeas

The journey leading to this picture started in 2015. I decided to live a new adventure after chasing the Northern Lights. I travelled to Iceland where I witnessed my first solar eclipse near Jokulsarlon Glacier. Mesmerized by the ambiance, the atmosphere, and being constantly on a quest for images, a new dream emerged: create a powerful photo of a solar eclipse.

While learning more about the technical aspects of such a project, I started to research about the next eclipse and the places it would cross, which led me on a chase for the eclipse in May 2016, in Tanzania this time. Once there, traveling being more difficult than expected, I decided to fly to the island of Reunion. There, I spent several weeks of scouting and thinking about how to create the photo.

I was far from achieving optimal conditions as the deadline approached, and it became more and more clear how difficult it would be to achieve this project. However, I lived another powerful experience, and I decided to persevere on this path – continuing to develop the project and thinking about the place to catch the next eclipse.

photo by  Nicolas Raspiengeas,   © Checkmydream

photo by Nicolas Raspiengeas, © Checkmydream

"The USA seemed to be the right place, given that the eclipse would cross the country from West to East.

I started the time consuming step of researching the best spot, and, given the timing of the eclipse, I started narrowing my focus to mountainous areas.

Considering multiple options across the West, including the Grand Tetons National Park and the mountains of Idaho, I decided to plan the trip around volunteering in a family-run cattle ranch in Oregon."

Nicolas Raspiengeas

Nicolas Raspiengeas picked Smith Rock from all possible choices in the U.S. to shoot the event.

The most difficult was yet to come – the eclipse passing between 10:15 and 10:25 in Central Oregon, I needed to find an ideal location where I could have the right distance from the subject, with the subject at a high enough position to achieve the ideal framing. My initial search revealed two options: Smith Rock and Three Fingered Jack.Forest fires and difficult access to the mountain made Three Fingered Jack a less viable option, so I decided on Smith Rock, and over several days returned to the site to plan the ideal positioning. I studied the shadows, the location to set up the material, and the visibility line with the subject. And after exploring several scenarios, on the day before the eclipse, I made a final decision for the details of the shoot.

Still unsure on whether I would succeed, I started the day knowing it would surely be one of the most important of my career. The moon passing in front of the sun, the image began to appear on the screen… we were then a few moments from the total eclipse and I asked Marie (the person in the photo) to take the position we had practiced the days before.

The eclipse was an intense moment – the ambiance strange – and I was more and more excited as the darkness approached, even missing a few shots in this excitement. Regaining determination with a new dose of concentration, I adjusted my camera and took a few shots, and the image captures the next moments of history!

Nicolas Raspiengeas

Video taken by Nicolas Raspiengeas of Marie dancing by the light of the eclipse at Smith Rock State Park. © Checkmydream