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Capturing the Eclipse

Julia Bradshaw knew being in the path of a total eclipse of the sun was special, but her own fascination surprised her.

Total Eclipse photo

Totality in Corvallis, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

For Bradshaw, an assistant professor of photography and new media communications, it all started with a trip to the Valley Library and Oregon State’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center. There, she found a collection of papers on proving Einstein’s theory of relativity through eclipse photography.

“When I started to understand how important photographing the eclipse was to science and astronomy I became more and more involved,” she says.

Involved, for Bradshaw, meant setting up pin-hole cameras on a neighbor’s fence so she could record the transect of the sun from March to August. It meant spending months scoping out the right spot on campus to photograph the August 21 eclipse, the last one in Oregon this century.

But involved also meant reaching beyond her personal interests, too.

Solar Eclipse filter

One of Julia Bradshaw’s solar filters. Photo courtesy of Julia Bradshaw.

“I thought, ‘Somebody needs to think about people photographing the eclipse and the severe danger of damaging your eyes,’” she says. “And so I thought, ‘Maybe a photography professor should be doing this.’”

Bradshaw teamed up with Tom Carrico of the Heart of the Valley Astronomy Club as well as Randy Milstein, an instructor in the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, and hosted a workshop last April where participants built their own solar filters for their cameras and practiced photographing the sun. The workshop was so popular that Bradshaw and her collaborators added eight more for the Oregon State and Corvallis communities and beyond.

“It’s for photographers and astronomers and anyone who has a relationship to the land and light and nature’s cycles,” she says. “I think making our solar filters is very empowering to a lot of people because I don’t think we make things enough. It might inspire people to do more.”

Bradshaw also organized an exhibition titled “Totality” at Fairbanks Gallery that runs through Sept. 21.

“I have a number of artists taking part who are approaching our solar system or cosmos in different ways: historically, scientifically, spiritually and through the lens of space exploration,” she says. “An event like this really stretches the imagination. And imagination and creativity go hand in hand. This is a wonderful opportunity for artists to inspire others and for scientists to awaken others. The two go hand in hand.”

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