A total solar eclipse is rare. It happens just once every 18 months, is only visible from a few places on Earth, and last just minutes. You may never get to see one, but Hungarian photographer György Soponyai lets you experience the magic anyway.
His digitally manipulated time-lapse captures a total solar eclipse above the sky in remote Svalbard, Norway from start to finish. You see the sun arc above the Earth, get extinguished by the moon for precisely two-and-a-half minutes, then reemerge again only to slink back below the horizon. It’s stunning. Soponyai loves “the shades of blue, orange and gray,” with the “black disc above the southern horizon surrounded by the solar corona.”
Soponyai has been fascinated by the heavens since age 5, when his parents gave him an astronomy book to read at the hospital after he had his tonsils removed. He began shooting through his Dobsonian telescope five years ago, and in 2013 saw a surreal photo of a partial solar eclipse in Abu Dhabi. Soponyai became obsessed with photographing one, and discovered the only way to fully see the next total solar eclipse was to head to the Arctic.
In March 2015, he did. Soponyai flew to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen and set up camp next to the airport on the shore of the Greenland Sea. He stabilized his Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod and began shooting at sunrise. Over the next 12 hours, he made two photos every 15 minutes-one of the solar disc and another exposing the foreground. The below-zero temperatures made the camera’s intervalometer finicky, so Soponyai kept time on his wristwatch. “I spent the whole day counting the minutes,” he says.
Later in Photoshop, Soponyai stitched the 72 images together. He layered them over a 360-degree panorama he took during the first minute of the eclipse. To make the landscape look like a planet, he squished the photo into a square, flipped it upside down, and wrapped it around polar coordinates. “[It] adds more dimension to the photo and also simply looks cool,” he says.
The final image captures the incredible process of the moon briefly blotting out the sun. The next total solar eclipse will take place in August 2017, and be visible in part of the US. But if you can’t make it, don’t worry. Soponyai will be there.