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Total Eclipse 2017 at Triple Tree

Triple Tree Aerodrome played host for one of natures most spectacular events. Check out Nikoleis first-hand account and pictures!


It was my first total eclipse...and it was AWESOME!

With what apparently started out as the Triple Tree volunteers making plans to get together with their friends & family to watch the eclipse on site, ballooned into a large 2-day event with over 400 planes and several hundred campers! Despite being a full-scale fly-in, Triple Tree opened the event to AMA members (although there was no R/C flying permitted other than night-flying), as well as other aviation organizations.

In the months prior to the eclipse, I knew I wanted to do what I could to experience this 'once in a lifetime' event, but I didn't know where I wanted to go that wouldn't be swamped with people and wouldn't cost a fortune. Not soon after, I saw an announcement from Triple Tree with their Eclipse Fly-In...and camping was free! BOOM! Plans were set.

The next item on the agenda was camera gear. After some research, I decided to rent a Sigma 150-600mm from, which gives me a great opportunity to see if I like the lens enough to purchase for future aviation photography! I also purchased a couple of cheap solar filters that folded up like a box to slide over the lens from B&H Photo. Better yet, the filters included a 5-pack of solar glasses all for like $25!


Being a full-scale fly-in, I was excited to get to Triple Tree and experience the grounds when it wasn't packed with 1,500 R/C pilots, planes and spectators! I drove down first thing Sunday morning and registered with a donation. Triple Tree sure had a different feel after cresting the hill! The whole upper grounds were empty, and the only activity visible was down at the 3D line pavilion. I picked out a camping spot off the road near the 3D pond and my club-mate and his son arrived shortly after. Once we setup & settled in, I walked the campground to check out the planes and watch them land one after the other. I talked with one of the airplane parking attendants early in the afternoon and he told me 400 planes were registered to land for the event, and only about 90 were on the ground at that point! The early planes were being parked throughout the camping area behind the pavilion at the 3D line (which serves as event central for the full-scale fly-ins). Before long though, planes were being parked through the area by the pond where we were camping, in-front of the pavilion, and in the field behind the control tower.

A steak dinner with sides at the hangar was offered for those that didn't bring their own food. My buddy and I flew our night-planes up in the vendor row field area until all our packs were empty, along with our own energy tanks. Before tucking in for the night, we listened to a 3-man band camped near us called "Just Plane Fun". What a great evening!


Eclipse day was here, and the weather forecast looked good with only a partial threat of clouds! Breakfast was catered in and planes were arriving literally non-stop right up to the eclipse totality, with plane parking now spilling 2 or 3 deep on the side of the runway almost all of the way up to the main Joe Nall flight-line. The variety of planes, and the sheer number, was fun to see!

RVs, Cubs, Cessnas, amphibious planes, ultralights, kit planes; all shapes and sizes were there. Also there was a nice Pitts biplane, Beechcraft Staggerwing, Pilatus Porter and a beautiful DC-3 even made an appearance! I even spotted Mike Kennedy (star of Plane Repo) and his float plane camped not 150 feet from us.

Eclipse Time!

My initial idea of setting up on the tree line near the road & runway didn't work out, so I ended up at a great spot right under the pavilion of the main Joe Nall flight-line. With my gear setup, focused and was just down to waiting for it to start! Cumulus clouds were building, but we remained hopeful for clear skies during totality. We hung out in the shade, talked to the other spectators and photographers and even helped some less experienced folks with some camera settings and advice for good pictures.

At about 1:10pm, the first little nibble was taken out of the suns disc. It was on! I set my phone timer and took a picture every 10 minutes as the moon progressed over the sun. As totality got closer, the reduction of light became noticeable and the intense South Carolina heat began to ease off. Within the last 5-10 minutes before totality, the cicadas and other insects started up. A few planes took off shortly before totality, I assume to watch it from the air.

Also interesting as it got closer, was the hundreds of crescent shadows being cast through the leaves of the trees! Seconds before totality, I noticed a rare phenomenon called 'shadow snakes'; which a photographer I met earlier that day told me to watch for. It literally looked like hundreds of sine-wave shadows slithering over the ground! Word is scientists have yet to come up with a solid explanation for these, but it was a cool sight! Nearly impossibly to photograph...but cool!

As the moons shadow finally hit us, the exclamations from everyone on the grounds were amazing. I was holding the remote release shutter button on my camera as it became totality, only to realize a second later that I forgot to take the solar filter off! Damn, missed pictures of the opening diamond ring & baileys beads! I threw off the filter and snapped away. I also forgot to change the camera into Exposure Bracketing mode, so I was forced to change the shutter speed dial after every few frames. Being so busy with the camera, I had to remind myself to LOOK UP and see this with my own eyes. I still only got to look at it for a few seconds before turning my attention back to the camera, but it was a spectacular sight and one that I will never forget!

After the fastest 2 minutes I've ever experienced, the sun peaked back out; announcing the end of totality. Somehow I was lucky enough to be in the right camera settings, and clicked away as the baileys beads and diamond ring appeared before putting our solar filters back on. The beads of light in the first shot are caused by the suns disc of light being separated by the craters & mountains of the moon! They only last a second, so it takes some luck to capture them. I'm so happy I did, as it's one of my favorite shots!

Minutes after totality was complete, engines started up and the runway became very busy very quickly! In no time at all, there was a long line of planes waiting in line for their turn to roll out. I stayed up at the pavilion to shoot the rest of the moon leaving the sun every few minutes as we got buzzed from each plane taking off directly over us. Once the moon was out of sight by around 4, well over half the planes had left with many more still waiting in line. We packed our camera gear and headed back to camp to decide if we wanted to leave and brave the traffic, or stay another night. I opted to leave and headed home around 6. By that time, the lower Triple Tree grounds that were chock-full of airplanes was down to just a few handfulls.

I'll be posting some of my other eclipse shots on this thread as I get time to process them, so subscribe to it and keep a look out!

When's the next one?!

Damn, that was freakin' awesome! Big thanks to Triple Tree Aerodrome for putting on a great event, despite it being planned last-minute! It took tons of volunteer man-hours to direct & park all of those planes for such a short event, but it was well orchestrated and the effort was appreciated by all. Everyone there was having fun, making friends and sharing once in a lifetime experience. It was certainly an experience I'll remember, and really hope I can make it to the next US eclipse in 2024. If you haven't seen one yet, I cannot recommend enough adding this to your bucket list. I'm glad to have been able to share my experience with you, and hope you enjoy the pictures! See you in 2024 - and until then, keep your wings level!

Last edited by Nikolei Zinsli; Aug 25, 2017 at 11:01 PM..
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Aug 30, 2017, 07:28 PM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Amazing pics Nikolei! Great work.
Aug 31, 2017, 10:05 AM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks Jason!
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Aug 31, 2017, 02:05 PM
14s 180mah should be enough...
IFLYOS's Avatar
Awesome shots, Nikolei!
Latest blog entry: Intro..a few years to late!
Sep 04, 2017, 10:42 AM
Registered User
Very nice. I drove down to TN (saw it from a meadow near Coker Creek, all to myself).
Now this makes me wish I was still current with my pilots license - certainly would have beat that humongous traffic jam on the way home,

Also, what camera body did you use? That lense you borrowed looked liek it did a nice job.
Sep 12, 2017, 08:55 AM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by jonquinn
Very nice. I drove down to TN (saw it from a meadow near Coker Creek, all to myself).
Now this makes me wish I was still current with my pilots license - certainly would have beat that humongous traffic jam on the way home,

Also, what camera body did you use? That lense you borrowed looked liek it did a nice job.
Jonquinn, sorry I didnt see your question earlier. I use a Nikon D5100.
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z

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