Gatlinburg, Tennessee has always been a favorite place of mine and when the Monday of the solar eclipse rolled around, I was already in town and decided to stay and watch this moment in history! With tours going to Cades Cove and other places in the national park, I thought Gatlinburg might be pretty busy. Surprisingly, downtown Gatlinburg was fairly deserted on Monday afternoon. I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant which has a rooftop patio to watch the eclipse. There was a $10 fee per person to access the patio, but that seemed a fair price for a front row seat on the railing. We found a table, ordered some sweet tea and snacked on chips and salsa as we waited. The media was predicting full coverage by 2:30 p.m.
Moment By Moment…
1:30 p.m. – At one hour before totality, the restaurant turned their rooftop party lights on though the sky was still bright as day. Around me, folks with eclipse glasses would occasionally look up and report that the sun was slightly covered. The restaurant staff shared one pair of glasses and glanced up at the sky every now and then.
1:40 p.m. – If I were to take a guess, I would say that the guy looking through the bottom of his beer bottle at the sun didn’t have any glasses. I’m not an expert on the topic, but I’m pretty sure the glass of the bottle, though tinted, wasn’t really safe to look through.
1:50 p.m. – Most people were scrolling their phones and chatting. As before, folks continued to peek at the sun through their glasses, then go back to their previous conversation. To get a good photo of the coverage, people were covering their iPhone camera with solar glasses to take a picture.
1:55 p.m. – The couple next to us had an extra pair of glasses and let us use them. This photo was taken with the solar glasses covering my iPhone camera lens on the “HDR” setting.
2:00 p.m. – The patio began filling up with more people.
2:10 p.m. – A look through the glasses revealed that the coverage was at three quarters. Outside, it was still pretty bright out.
2:20 p.m. – Though the sky above was still daylight, the brightness of the light seemed to dim. Thank the Lord, it felt cooler outside too! People begin to pick out their spots by the rail and look up more often.
2:25 p.m. – The sun was almost covered at this point. This photo was taken with the pre-installed app on the iPhone and didn’t turn out too bad.
2:30 p.m. – Only a sliver was left to cover! Cameras and glasses were out in full force!
2:35 p.m. – In seconds, the dimness turned darker…like dusk before nightfall. Folks around us hooted and celebrated as they looked up at the sun through the dark glasses. Briefly, and I mean briefly, the diamond ring was visible as the moon covered the sun in totality. It was a beautiful moment, one I will never forget. The photo below was taken on my Nikon D7000 with a 16-80 lens.
2:37 p.m. – Just as quickly as the darkness descended, it was light again.
2:40 p.m. – Full light in downtown Gatlinburg though the moon is still over the sun working its way in a southwest/westward position.
2:50 p.m. – People are back at their tables enjoying the moment they just saw.
3:00 p.m. – Downtown Gatlinburg is back to normal, everyday life.
Conclusion: I was surprised that Gatlinburg wasn’t a more popular place to see the solar eclipse. It’s a beautiful area, had great visibility and attracts a lot of visitors each year. Though I originally wanted to be in Marion, Illinois or Nashville, Tennessee for the event, I’m now glad that the lack of hotel vacancy in Illinois and the price tag on the Nashville hotels kept me in the Great Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg has always been a favorite spot for me and it was a great way to see the eclipse. In case you were wondering, I shot mostly with my iPhone during the eclipse. Once the moon covered the sun in totality, I pulled out my Nikon to catch that diamond ring, as you saw in the photo above. Also, I used my GoPro to capture a time lapse, but because I didn’t have a filter, the eclipse isn’t very visible to the naked eye. The thing that worked the best was taking a time lapse on my iPhone with the solar glasses over the iPhone lens. At the end of the day, this event was amazing! Back at my hotel, I learned from the Weather Channel that the next total solar eclipse is July 2, 2019 – though it won’t be visible from the United States. To see another total solar eclipse in the U.S., we’ll have to wait until April 8, 2024!