Solar Eclipse 2017: Time-Lapse Videos from the South Dakota Badlands

August 21, 2017 – We first noticed the mania about the 2017 solar eclipse when we took our RV through the cute towns of Chugwater and Douglas, Wyoming, a few weeks ago. There were solar eclipse glasses for sale at checkout counters and all kinds of tourist pamphlets advertising the event.

We watched it in the Badlands of South Dakota where the eclipse would 95.7% of maximum — pretty close to total.

Timelaps video setup for Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota August 21 2017

Timelapse video setup for Solar eclipse 2017 in the South Dakota Badlands!!

We set up three tripods with our cameras facing the rugged Badlands landscape to capture time-lapse video sequences of the two and a half hour progression from normal daylight through the dark skies of the eclipse and back to normal daylight again. We started the time-lapse videos a little more than an hour before the max eclipse time, and set the cameras to take images every four seconds. Then we got busy doing other things.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota tripod set up for timelapse video time-lapse August 21 2017.

We set the time-lapses to take a shot every 4 seconds.
It was cloudy at the start, and we had no idea how dark it would get, so the exposure settings were a wild guess!

Because of the clouds, it was a little hard to tell that anything was happening. However, the sun eventually came out and it was a little dimmer than normal. Using a technique similar to the pin-hole boxes we had both made during solar eclipses as kids, Mark flipped a pair of binoculars upside down to show the image of the moon crossing the sun on the back of a white pizza box.

He thought of this technique at the last minute, and impressed the heck out of me. What a creative mind he has!! I asked him how he came up with the idea, and he just said, “Well, I needed something with a round hole.” Oh. Right. But of course!

Solar Eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota viewing through binoculars August 21 2017.

It’s started!

We were in a quiet area, but as the eclipse progressed we noticed a fire engine pulled up to park a bluff. One firefighter climbed up on the roof of the truck to look at the changing landscape and the other stood out front. Cool!

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota fire truck on hill August 21 2017.

A fire truck showed up on a bluff.

I remember when I was child there was a solar eclipse visible across North America (in March, 1970), and my great-uncle, who was 85 at the time, began telling stories of a solar eclipse he had lived through as a kid in the last years of the 1800’s. He said the animals had gotten confused and had settled in to go to sleep. The chickens all roosted, the dogs curled up on the ground, and all the critters thought it was time to go to bed.

I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or not, but all of a sudden we saw a pair of big horn sheep babies playing out in the grasslands. They were romping around together bounding over the tall grasses when all of a sudden they stopped dead in their tracks and turned around to look at something behind them.

Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

A pair of baby big horn sheep pause in the grasslands to look over their shoulders.

Mark grabbed his Nikon D500 camera and very long lens and snapped a few priceless pics. As we watched this sweet pair, we were both amazed when they suddenly laid down right there on the ground.

Resting big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

Time for a little rest.

Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota-2


I’m not sure if they thought nighttime was coming, but one of them dozed off for a moment!

Sleeping Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota


And then the magic moment arrived. 11:51:36 am was maximum eclipse time for us, and for the next two minutes we were at maximum moon-over-sun darkness of 95.7%.

Mark put his 16-80 mm lens on his camera, attached two 10-stop neutral density filters, popped out the live view display, and took a few shots.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota photographing 95.7% eclipse August 21 2017.

Mark sets up to see what he can get at the moment of maximum eclipse.

I sneaked behind him to see what he was getting. Very cool!!

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota photographing 95.7% eclipse August 21 2017

There it is!

solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota 95.7% eclipse at maximum August 21 2017 11-51 am

95.7% of total eclipse.

I wandered around with my pocket camera and got some images of the Badlands. Frankly, it wasn’t really that dark. At least it didn’t seem to be to me.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota 95.7% maximum eclipse August 21 2017 August 21 2017.

It didn’t seem all that dark during the maximum solar eclipse.

The sun was definitely still shining and there were distinct shadows on the ground. I took a shot of my shadow.

My shadow Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

I could see my shadow plain as day at max eclipse time.
Friends of ours in Idaho said the true total eclipse was as black as night. They even saw stars for a few minutes!

But when we looked at the time-lapse videos later, we discovered the cameras had picked up the darkening light very well. I had a polarizing filter on my Nikon D810 with an 18-35mm lens set to about 20mm with a shutter speed of 1/50 and aperture of f8. Mark didn’t have a polarizer and used a 24-120mm lens with a shutter speed of 1/200 at f5.6.

Here are the three time-lapse videos, the first two from our Nikon D810 cameras and the third from the Nikon Coolpix A. Each one is about 30 seconds long:

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The solar eclipse I remember from childhood was on March 7, 1970, and occurred in the middle of my weekly piano lesson. My wonderful piano teacher and I kept peeking out the window and looking into my pin hole box between recitations of Bach’s sonatas. Very fun! Here’s some info about that eclipse.

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14 thoughts on “Solar Eclipse 2017: Time-Lapse Videos from the South Dakota Badlands

  1. Very nice. We were totally overcast here in central Minnesota, so this was a timely video for me. (I’m old enough to clearly remember the 1979 total eclipse, though, so I’m good. ?). Really enjoy your site. We’ll be heading south in February in our 28′ mini, so picking up some pointers. Thanks!

    • Too bad you had clouds, Wright!! I was afraid we were in for overcast skies too and was really surprised when the clouds dissipated. Then I was worried we would end up overexposing our time-lapses, but you can’t stop them mid-stream to check!! I’m glad we could bring you what we saw here in SD.

      I don’t actually remember the 1979 eclipse — I must have been buried in college homework. The one I remember was on March 7, 1970. It was a huge deal for everyone in my school. I’ve added a link for it above in the references section. Thanks for reading, and have fun in your 28′ Mini!!!

  2. Nice photo! We saw it in a State Park in PA, have 2 grand daughters with us and took turns looking through my Nikon with a variable ND filter. Only got to 77% here but was cool to watch.

  3. My wife and I caught the total eclipse in Sullivan, MO, about 150 miles from where we’re currently staying. Unbelievable doesn’t come close to describing the experience. I felt like I was on an alien planet right out of a sci-fi novel. The view of the sun’s corona was breathtaking! The sky was dark, not black, but 360 degrees of sunset-looking skies on the horizon added to the other-worldly aura. On the way home, we heard an interview on the radio of a NASA scientist who said that even an eclipse of 99% was still 10,000 times brighter than totality! The next one in 2024 should be even better. The moon will be closer to the earth and the path of totality will be wider. Some areas will see over 6 minutes. We saw 2:32. We will definitely be there to see it again!

  4. Traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Hopkinsville, KY. It was totally unplanned until Sunday when I watched a You Tube video of being in totality. As I watched, I had a profound sense it was one of those things that went far beyond what could be captured on film. Sixty seconds later, I knew I wanted to see Bailey’s Beads,the last visible rays of light shining across the valleys of the moons’ surface, and I wanted my son to have the experience as well.

    At 1am on Monday, we hit the road and drove straight through. At the time, I knew nothing about the importance of Hopkinsville, KY. We had just arrived home late friday night from a few weeks of an electronics free, off grid camping trip. The solar eclipse buzz on the news had escaped my awareness. All I knew was 1) according to the weather, the areas west of Nashville were to have the clearest skies and 2) if I am traveling for a solar eclipse, I am traveling for totality and clear skies. One load of laundry and a restock of the frig later, we were on our way!

    At 6am I began checking the area weather updates.I had given myself a 300 mile zone from Nashville. Madisonville and Hopkinsville were the nearest 2 cities coming up with totally clear skies around 2pm.

    When we arrived in the area, I saw many signs about eclipse viewing and parking. I pulled over on a side road and started reading up on my options. Soon a car stopped and a young couple asked if I needed help. The young man knew of the events in Hopkinsville, and told me about a Trail of Tears campground. He randomly stated that it would be a safe, well policed option.

    As it turned out, there was a wonderful welcome center at the campground with lots of eclipse swag. There is where I learned Hopkinsville, KY was “eclipseville, USA” as the moon would be closest to the earth there. All the spots in the campground area were reserved for the event, but as we were touring the nearby Trail of Tears museum, there were picnic tables and grassy areas available for patrons to enjoy the viewing.

    Interestingly, in our row of about 10 parked cars, one was from New York, one from Michigan, and the rest were all from Ohio.

    Experiencing totality was one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life. I have nothing in likeness to compare it to. I stared at the sky for awhile and then dropped my eyes down to look all around me. The leaves on the trees were casting all these half moon crescent shapes across our chairs. We had 2:40 mins. The cheers went over the land like after the grand finale on the 4th of July, only the crowd was much larger. The temperature went from a very uncomfortable heat index of 99 degrees, to being so wonderfully comfortable. The humidity was gone. There was a bright star, Venus, I believe. The darkness was surreal.

    The drive home was awful. It was 10 hours just to get through Louisville. I pulled off at 1:30 am to sleep. Met someone this morning who stuck it out until 3:30 am. Absolutely worth it though.

    If you get the chance again, I highly recommend getting to the best spot in the totality range you can. With all the wonderful life adventures you have had, I believe fairly strongly you will enjoy adding totality to your list 🙂

    The picture you have posted of the 95%, is when people started standing up to see Bailey’s Beads and the main event of totality. During totality we could take off our glasses and look at the sun. I remember when the first patch of light started to come through once again. It was like someone shining a super bright flashlight it my face. The darkness was already almost gone.

    • Wow!! That is quite a story, Tamara, and sounds like it was a truly thrilling and very moving experience. How exciting to decide last minute to go on the spur of the moment like that. Those few minutes of otherworldliness were surely worth every bit of effort and time spent on the road in traffic!!!

    • Tamara, good report,, story. We Are in Dayton, Tenn about 20 miles South of the Spring City Total target, but within the 35 mile band.. We had three sets of school teachers camp in our backyard for free..Day before also looked for hilltop overlook, BUT stayed in our own backyard and seemed better. Neighbor porch light auto turn on, and also saw 100 pinhole arc pattern thru our tal oak trees.. Glasses were great as pattern light slight orange when dimming , then Bright White, like you mention for the first rays of Diamond Ring pattern.

      • How awesome that you and others saw the pinhole pattern through the trees. Love it!! Sounds like you had a fun experience too, especially having visitors stay in your backyard!! How cool that the neighbor’s porch light turned on…!

  5. GREAT post…and the responses of your “followers” as well ! And yes, Nuncky often reminisced about the eclipse he witnessed in Mexico…”earth-shaking” !! Also pleased with your own recollections of past eclipses – and I shared your post with two French friends, one of whom sent me a video……

    • Thanks!! The edge of the Badlands was a neat spot to witness it, and those memories from long ago are very precious. I hadn’t realized that that storied eclipse was in Mexico, but I vividly remember hearing about the animals being confused!!

  6. Great photos, eclipse and Bad Lands! Up here in the Northeast we did not see any change at all in the sunlight. I did not have the special sunglasses so I just kept doing my yard work and looked at everyone else’s photos,like yours!


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