Totality: Capturing the Total Solar Eclipse

You might recognize these photos of the recent total solar eclipse – they’ve been floating around the internet and catching a lot of buzz.

We’ve got the scoop on capturing this incredible moment from GoalZero ambassador, photographer and climber, Ted Hesser and commercial adventure photographer, Andrew Studer.


Ted and Andrew joined us at Smith Rock State Park as we chased the total solar eclipse. We followed them from the planning and set-up to the moment they captured these images.

You can watch the full-story about capturing the totality here:

We asked Andrew and Ted a few questions about his experience. Up first, we’ve got Ted:

How long did it take for you to plan the shot?

The shot concept, of a mountain climber silhouetted against the total eclipse, had been in my mind for months leading up to the eclipse. I wasn’t sure how to pull it off for quite some time, and only began to really piece the details together once we landed in Smith Rock about a week before the eclipse took place.

For the first few days, my girlfriend Martina Tibell and I climbed numerous technical multi-pitch rock climbs across the Smith Rock massive, scouting for the perfect angle. After reaching the top of the classic five pitch climb ‘Wherever I May Roam’ well before 10:20am, we realized that the Monkey Face formation may be very close to lining up perfectly with the eclipse. We could see it clearly from the top, and saw the path of the sun lining up just right. We then spent the next few days scouting for the perfect shooting location down below the formation. Tommy Smith, a good friend and awesome climber, joined us the day before to do the actual climb with Martina.

Who was involved in helping you plan this shot?

I could not have done this without the support of Tommy Smith and Martina Tibell. They both rallied to get up on top of the rock wall in scorching heat two days in a row. It was a serious technical rock climb and they toughed it out despite running out of water and numerous hiccups along the way. I also worked closely with Andrew Studer to think through the shot and choreograph body positioning from down below. Andrew is a gifted photographer, and his input was invaluable.

In what capacity did you and Andrew Studer work together on this project?

Andrew and I both came to Smith Rock with similar concepts for a unique eclipse photo. We both wanted to capture the human element amidst a landscape while totality was occurring. I began to share with Andrew where I thought a shot like this might be possible, based upon our scouting missions. We both then spent a day at the base of the Monkey Face, determining the right position, and orienting the climbers body position up top. On the day of, Andrew and I were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, both trying to nail the shot. And then at the moment of totality, we were right there, side by side, taking different photos of the same subject, our own artistic impressions of a phenomenal scene playing out in front of our eyes.

What factors were you most concerned about when trying to capture the shot?

I was most concerned that the totality would happen behind Monkey Face tower and that we would miss it based on our position. There was a 30 foot long cluster of trees obscuring the view of the tower on our right, so it was risky to be where we were. If we had been slightly off in our planning, we would not have been able to move to the side to get a shot, we were essentially marooned to our chosen position. I was also worried about camera settings, and making sure that I bracketed enough to capture a large range of shutter speeds.

If we had been slightly off in our planning, we would not have been able to get a shot.

What do you think made this experience such a success?

Teamwork makes the dream work. Setting up the shot was all about teamwork. And then the viral success of the photo afterwards was also a result of our team blasting it out there into the ethos of the internet.

How have you been feeling since your iconic photo of the eclipse went viral?

It’s been wild! I never expected such a strong reaction to our photo. It’s deeply humbling, and fulfilling to have your work appreciated by so many people.

How has it felt to get so much positive feedback from people about this photo?

So much positive feedback is entirely overwhelming. I’m trying to keep up with and respond to comments but I’m not sure it is possible at this point. The whole thing was really quite special.

For every 100 positive comments there may be one negative one.

How are you dealing with the negative feedback surrounding the authenticity of the photo?

For every 100 positive comments there may be one negative one. So it’s not that big of a deal. But our brains are pretty good about amplifying the negative ones and minimizing the volume of the positive comments. This ‘negativity bias’ is natural, so I try to remind myself of that and mostly brush it off.

What advice would you have for someone looking to capture the total solar eclipse in 2024?

Don’t look at the sun! But seriously, it’s pretty difficult to frame a photo with the solar sunglasses on. You invariably take them on and off to squint and duck behind the shade of a tree while framing composition. I was constantly reminding myself of the potential danger to my retinas. It felt a bit like rock climbing, where there is that enveloping presence of objective risk, and it’s your job to balance getting the job done while minimizing the risk.

And now for Andrew’s experience and find out what he’s up to next!

How long did it take for you to plan your eclipse shots?

Personally, I’ve never had much interest in photographing solar eclipses. However, when I learned how rare and beautiful total eclipses are a couple months before the event, I wanted to compress totality with a unique foreground with a human element.

Who was involved in helping you plan the shot?

I owe a lot to Goal Zero ambassador Ted Hesser and his girlfriend Martina Tibell and especially the climber, Tommy Smith. Without Ted organizing for them both to climb up and for agreeing to work together, I probably wouldn’t have walked away with a shot of someone positioned so close to the rings of totality.

In what capacity did you and Ted Hesser work together on this project?

Ted worked quite a bit on this setup, especially when it came to the general area where the photographers would need to be in position. In addition to that, he coordinated to have his friend Tommy to climb up and pose for the photos. Unfortunately, I had a live event with Columbia scheduled 24 hours before totality would occur. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to see what the sun’s exact position would be during totality and confirm that the sun tracker apps we were using were accurate. Thankfully, Ted scouted it out at 10:00AM the day before and found the area we’d need to be.

It was fairly nerve-wracking for us to capture these photos.

I met up with Ted at around 11:00AM after my live event finished and he shared the area we’d want to be during totality. Shortly after, his girlfriend Martina and friend Tommy made the climb to the top of “Monkey Face”,the rock formation in the photo. Ted and I then began coordinating with Tommy on a precise position and body pose. We wanted to get him contrasted with the sky and in a pose that wasn’t contorted or awkward from our perspective.

What factors were you most concerned about when trying to capture the shot?

It was fairly nerve-wracking for us to capture these photos.

For one, none of us quite knew what to expect in terms of lighting. We also only had 1:28 of totality to shoot so if we were setup in the wrong place, even by a couple feet, I might not have been able to capture the shot I envisioned.

What do you think made this experience such a success?

I thought it was really neat how Ted, myself and everyone else involved walked away with completely different images despite being so close together. It was also so incredible how it all came together and that all the factors that could have prevented us from shooting the eclipse (including nearby wildfire smoke) worked out in our favor. We feel so fortunate that the shoot went so smoothly and we were able to walk away with the photos we set out to capture.

As of now, it still looks like we are the only photographers to have captured images of a person within totality.

How has it felt to get so much positive feedback from people about your eclipse photos?

It’s honestly been a massive surprise. I had no idea so many people would see or even be compelled enough to share our photos from the eclipse. Everyone has been so kind!

What advice would you have for someone looking to capture the total solar eclipse in 2024?

I think that using a telephoto lens and compressing and interesting foreground or subject with the sun can lead so some incredible results. Take the time to plan or coordinate something and you could get some stunning photos. And also don’t forget that besides a telephoto lens, you really don’t need the top of the line camera to make something beautiful.

Take the time to plan or coordinate something and you could get some stunning photos.

Where are you off to next?

I’m extremely excited to spend the next week photographing the Dolomites in Italy with my friend Michael Shainblum who was also with us during the shoot. It’s such an incredible area full of some extremely beautiful mountains.

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