August 21, 2017 was a big day for most of the country with a very rare total solar eclipse visible across much of the country.
In Cary, North Carolina, we only achieved about 95% of totality, but it was still an opportunity to test some basic optical principles and photography skills. So I set up a pair of 10x power binoculars as a projector and was pleasently surprised at the details I was able to photograph.
Solar eclipse, first shot
Even from the first photograph, a line of sunspots could be seen across the orb. The gear is nothing special. All of these photographs are of the image projected through the binoculars onto a white piece of paper and are taken with a Nexus 6 smart phone.
About half way to totality, a strange redness in the sky was obvious to several of us observing the event. Despite the short shadows from the midday solar position, the sunlight appeared as if at the end of the day. A significant diminishment of the radiative energy was obvious, too, and everything felt much cooler despite the continued glare.
Solar eclipse at maximum
2:44pm was the maximum pnuembra (shadow) for the photograph above. You can barely see the last sunspot grazing the edge of the moon's edge.
Solar eclipse photography setup
This was a five minute setup. The binoculars were screwed onto a cheap tripod and a large piece of foamcore board was hurridly cut to fit over the objective ends to create a shadow on the observation board. Gentle re-adjustment from time to time re-centered the image to maintain maximum focal clarity. This photo is from early in the event, and we later adjusted it to place the observation board on the ground so the projection was larger and focus more finely adjusted. (The golf umbrella and chair in the background were never used, the event was too exciting to sit down!)
Solar eclipse shadows
Shadows during solar eclipses are curious. Tiny openings between the leaves of trees act the same way the binocular setup works and effectively project the sun's image onto the ground. The only difference is that the binoculars use lensees to magnify the image with a short focal length and the tree "pinholes" magnify the images according to the proportion of distance of the hole to the ground.
Today is the summer solstice. This is the longest day of the year, even though the summer is only getting warmer for the next three months. Download my free Triangle Sundial that you can print and test the sun angles yourself.
Sundial on the Summer Solistice
Due to the thermal lag of the earth’s mass, the days will continue to get hotter despite the sun being the highest in the sky today. As discussed in the previous article, using solar angles can be very helpful for reducing energy costs in architect considers them in the design. Of course, the opposite is also true. A home can actually face into the warm summer sun and increase the cooling costs. The sundial illustrates just how much these solar angles change througout the year.
My small town of Apex, North Carolina used to be called “Log Pond.” The photograph above is taken down the central Salem Street, the low spot in the road in the foreground apparently the site of the former pond. According to the town historians Warren and Toby Holleman, authors of Pluck, Perseverance and Paint: Apex, North Carolina: Beginnings to 1941, it served as the water replentishment for steam trains on the line parallel to the street just a hundred feet to the left.
Train Depot in “Log Pond,” North Carolina
The depot building still stands today, both as a landmark and the town Visitor’s center and Chamber of Commerce.
Read more in Apex’s Log Pond, the original article published in Cary Magazine.
Map of the Triangle, North Carolina (click to open in Google Maps)
The region is technically the bi-polar metropolitan area, Raleigh-Durham, but the Triangle is conceptually defined by corners located at three important landmarks. These mark the major educational institutions at the foundation of the original idea: the Chapel at Duke University, the Old Well at the University of North Carolina, and the Memorial Bell Tower at North Carolina State University.
The economic development area now known as the Research Triangle Park was the brilliant idea in 1954 to transform North Carolina from an agricultural economy to a technological one. The North Carolina population had nationally low income levels, education was weak, and the higher institutes of learning were disconnected. Inspired as a “golden triangle of research” by developer Romeo Guest, the effort to improve the state across many levels grew through the joint efforts of interested and notable citizens, including Wachovia Bank president Robert Hanes, governor Luther Hodges, Brandon Hodges, UNC president William Friday, and sociologist George Simpson.
Paul Rudolph’s Burroughs Wellcome building
In 1959, the Research Triangle Institute began out of the joint UNC/NC State Institute of Statistics on the same site it occupies today. Chemstrand’s high tech facility opened in 1960 and illustrated the logical transition North Carolina needed to make from its textile manufacturing roots. More tenants and facilities grew with the US Environmental Health Center (now NIEHS) in 1965, IBM’s purchase of 400 acres three months later, and the iconic Burroughs-Wellcome facility by Paul Rudolph in 1970, which was completed two years later.
The video below was produced in the early 1990’s promoting RTP and has about 30 minutes of good background on the birth of RTP and interviews with some of the important players. Look past the styles and production quality and watch the most applicable portions from 6:32–37:51.
As an architect, I find these influences interesting because they established the drive in the state to progress. This propelled architecture in the area as well, and the interest to become modern dictated local building style. A multitude of notable examples of modernism were created in the region, such as the Dorton Arena completed in 1952. Numerous houses and the NC State School of Architecture building by George Matsumoto still exist, as well as more homes by other recruits of the long time dean of the NC State architectural school, Henry Kamphoefner, himself of midwest modern influence.