Behind the Solar Eclipse: Being Camera-Ready for the Big Event

Greg Fishel & Nate Johnson

WRAL-TV Photojournalist Richard Adkins says this is “My favorite picture from the eclipse … With TWO bright stars…” He captured WRAL-TV’s Greg Fishel & Nate Johnson watching the solar eclipse atop Clingman’s Dome.

WRAL-TV Photojournalists Richard Adkins and Keith Baker knew they had one chance at bringing the solar eclipse live atop Clingman’s Dome to Triangle viewers.  These were the two men behind the cameras in the path of totality with WRAL-TV Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel and WRAL-TV Weather Executive Producer Nate Johnson.  What came and went in a few moments on television took months of preparation.

“It took months of planning. Lots of phone calls,” explained Adkins.  “And even a visit to the site a few weeks ago to make sure it would all work. But what it really took was determination.  There were times when changes with the Park service, when the plan began to unravel, and again it took constant communications with them to achieve what we needed.  Our hotel rooms were booked months in advance, and even then, they were last minute difficulties.”

Flexibility was key for the team of five which also included WRAL-TV Broadcast Engineer Tony Gupton.  The quintet made their way up to Clingman’s Dome in the wee hours of Monday, August 14, 2017, for the natural phenomenon.

“The leg work Richard did on this project was the reason for the success,” said Baker.  “He was able to work with the park service, a nearly impossible task most of the time, and get us in position to get this done. We had many hurdles to overcome but we had a lot of experience and talent on the ground to deal with whatever was thrown at us.”

They triple-checked the connections on top of the mountain and studied the camera settings they would need for the sudden changes in light.  Adkins would keep his camera trained on Fishel and Johnson, to capture their reactions.  Baker would capture the eclipse itself.

Solar eclipse

A still from the video WRAL-TV Photojournalist Keith Baker captured during the solar eclipse from atop Clingman’s Dome.

“I had an 18 stop filter for the camera, and I did spend some time in the two weeks leading up to the eclipse practicing with it,” explained Baker.  “Once the eclipse started there was no ‘Do Over’ so I knew I had one shot at getting the shot.”

Johnson told the tale of their once-in-a-lifetime eclipse adventure in the WRAL Weather Center Blog:

Adkins concluded, “What really made this come together though was the veteran TV professionals, with many years of experience, who had back up plans for the back up plans…  regardless of all the fancy TV equipment I’m top of that mountain, it was the people up there that made this happen.”

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Richard Adkins & Keith Baker for these capcom photos.


And a few photos from the Clingman’s Dome WRAL solar eclipse coverage headquarters captured by Corp’s Seth Effron:


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