How a Photographer Got This Stunning Total Eclipse Image From a Southwest Plane
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
On Monday Aug. 21, 2017, parts of the US experienced a total solar eclipse. Dubbed “Great American Eclipse,” the solar eclipse passed completely across the United States — the first eclipse to sweep coast to coast since 1918.
Professional photographer Jon Carmichael was determined to experience and capture the eclipse himself. As an amateur pilot, a self-described “space nerd” and a lover of aviation, he could think of no better way to experience the eclipse than from an aircraft. When he heard about the promotion to win a free seat on-board an Alaska charter flight flying into the eclipse, he felt it was perfect fit for him. So, he went all out, even hiring an animator to help produce his video entry for the contest.
Unfortunately, his efforts didn’t pay off. A few days before the eclipse, he found out that he hadn’t won. However, feeling his “life came together for this moment,” Jon was determined not to give up on his chance to see the eclipse from an aircraft. Comparing flight schedules with the eclipse forecast, he found and booked Southwest Flight 1268 from Portland (PDX) to St. Louis (STL) hoping it would work out.
He showed up at the gate with a B boarding position — and $600 cash ready to “bribe” someone for their window seat. (He could’ve jumped the boarding line for a lot cheaper by buying EarlyBird Check In.) At the gate, he spoke with a Southwest agent, mentioning his intentions to photograph the eclipse and sharing some of his work. The Southwest crew sprung into action from there.
Determined to help Jon get the shot, they made sure he’d be the first to board the Southwest flight. Jon chose Seat 1A. After introducing himself, the captain personally stepped onto the jetway to clean the outside of Jon’s window to ensure he had the best shot.
Once in the air, the pilots didn’t just fly into the eclipse, but worked with air traffic control to loop five 180-degree turns to ensure both that Jon got the shot — and that everyone on both sides of the flight got a view of the historic event.
Jon didn’t just get one shot but thousands. And, as Jon seemingly only half-joked, it’s taken him a full year to blend the photos together to get the stunning final image:
Reflecting back on the experience and the final masterpiece, Jon waxed poetic:
The last time we had a connection to the heavens like this was during man’s first flight to the moon, on Apollo 8 in 1968. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission, and like the eclipse last year, showed us that we are all a part of something bigger. I wanted my photo to perfectly capture this moment.
And he certainly accomplished that goal — at least according to Carter Emmart, the Director of Astrovisualization of the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the American Museum of Natural History. Calling the image “by far one of the best eclipse photos I have ever seen,” Carter says the image shows our “linkage to space” providing “greater landscape detail than we get from Earth’s orbit. His image is a ladder to space.”
On Tuesday morning at Twitter’s New York office, Jon unveiled an almost 10-foot-wide print of the image in the print’s first public appearance. Thankfully you don’t have to travel there to see it; we are grateful for Jon sharing the image — and his fascinating story — with us here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees