Photo by Allison Johnson

After speaking with a bone-a-fide eclipse expert a few months ago, I’ve been a proponent of not taking photos of the solar eclipse. So, on the morning of August 21st, 2017, I was on my way to the office with no plans to take pictures. I happened to have the Nikon D810 and AF-P 70-300mm at my side, but that was only because I’d been shooting with it over the weekend and planned to bring it to the office and pass it off to someone else.

My grand plan for the morning included mooching my colleague Jeff Keller's eclipse glasses and safely viewing the event from our building. This scheme was almost waylaid when I was initially turned away from the at-capacity roof deck by an actual bouncer. But I persisted, and by that I mean I just hung around for a few minutes, and eventually made it outside into the utter spectacle when someone else left.

Equally as good as the show in the sky was the show on the ground

As it turned out Jeff actually had glasses to spare, because he is good at planning ahead, so I found myself with a coveted spot on the deck and a pair of eclipse glasses just as the show was getting good. But I was surprised to find that equally as good as the show in the sky was the show on the ground.

There’s something that happens to your face when you put on these glasses and look at the moon in front of the sun. I felt it happen to my face, and I saw it on countless other faces Monday morning. Your mouth opens in awe. You smile, or laugh, or just stare.

Photo by Allison Johnson

I watched, and eventually started photographing my fellow eclipse-viewers. And though I hadn't expected to take any photos at all, I found myself really enjoying capturing the reactions around me. Not one person put on those glasses and looked bored or unimpressed. Staring at the moon eclipsing the sun turns out to be a great equalizer, because it makes us all feel like little kids again. In fact, Wenmei can verify this, because she took photos of actual kids.

Photo by Wenmei Hill. Also, two of these children.

My lackadaisical approach to the whole thing was just one of a range of ways DPR staffers captured the eclipse. My colleague Dale Baskin planned for the big day months in advance. He traveled south to Oregon, where he'd staked out a place for himself in the path of totality. He's an experienced night sky photographer and had a mostly set-it-and-forget it rig in place, so he photographed the whole enchilada and even managed to enjoy it too.

And then there's Rishi. Never one to back down from a scientific challenge, he Frankensteined a rig that he was mostly certain would not fry his camera's sensor. It worked, and his sensor is still intact.

Photo by Rishi Sanyal

Stacking filters and doing math seems like entirely too much trouble to me, but if I've learned anything working at DPReview it's this: that's just how some people enjoy photography. It's different from how I enjoy photography, but that's okay – each is valid.

Really, the "don't photograph the eclipse" advice wasn’t directed at every photographer. It was meant for people like me: hobbyists who might be tempted to try and capture the event at the expense of their own enjoyment of it.

There’s no one right way to be a photographer, and there’s no one right way to enjoy an eclipse

The more precise advice would have been, "Enjoy the eclipse," and for many people, that means photographing it: scouting a location, acquiring the right filter, picking a lens, getting in place and coming away with a once-in-a-lifetime shot. And it wouldn’t really matter whether that eclipse shot looks more or less like everyone else's: what matters is that they did it and enjoyed the process. That means something different to me than it does to Dale or Rishi.

As a baseball fan with little interest in advanced stats, the sentiment I often hear that "there's no one right way to be a fan" makes a lot of sense to me. For some people, enjoying the game means understanding how to calculate a player's slugging percentage. I'm content just baselessly speculating whether Nelson Cruz will hit a 400-foot home run in his next at bat. To each their own.

Just as there's no right way to be a fan, I believe there's no one right way to be a photographer, and no one right way to enjoy an eclipse. It really is too good of a thing to miss, however you take it in.