PICKENS COUNTY — The total solar eclipse that cast the Upstate in shadow was, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime event.
People drove and flew in from all over the country to witness the phenomenon and be able to say, if nothing else, “I was there.” Highway 85 was backed up for miles, as was U.S. 123 with travelers anxious to stake out a prime location to watch.
Various viewing parties and events were set up throughout the county but really, the big winners were all of us who already live here: Pickens County residents who had to do nothing more than step out on our front porch to see it.
“I took one look at the news, saw all that traffic, and immediately scrapped my plans,” said Katie Vollmer of Easley. “I was going to take the kids up to that party in Clemson but I didn’t want to deal with the traffic.”
Vollmer said instead of driving across the county, she would just watch it in her yard.
“I set up the kiddie pool for the kids, my husband and I dragged out a couple of lawn chairs and we watched it right here,” she said. “I mean, how blessed are we that this is happening right here?”
Vollmer said the one thing she wished she had done differently was borrow a camera to photograph the event.
“I tried to take pictures on my phone, but they didn’t turn out very good,” she said. “It would have been neat to take some real pictures — I didn’t because I just couldn’t see myself spending all that money for one day.”
She wasn’t wrong.
At the City of Easley’s viewing party at J.B. Red Owens Sports Complex there were people — amateurs and professionals alike — setting up thousands of dollars worth of equipment to photograph the eclipse.
But there were also a few who decided to get a little crafty to save some money.
“I found some solar filters online, but for the size I needed, it was going to cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” said Joseph Elbaum, who drove down from the D.C. area with his family to watch and shoot the eclipse. “So, I ‘MacGyver-ed’ one.”
Elbaum bought solar proof film, and made his own filter with cardboard and tape for his telescope.
“The film was around $30 I think, everything else was just time. I put it together in about 45 minutes,” he said. “I mean, why spend all that money? It doesn’t look the best, but hey, it gets the job done.”
Elbaum said he was in the online retail business and — despite his impressive telescope and camera equipment — insisted he was an amateur with photography and astronomy.
“My bank account may say otherwise but really, it’s just a hobby,” he joked. “Although usually one done at night.”
That afternoon, as the area was plunged in darkness, street lights popped on and crickets and tree frogs began chirping.
“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” said Easley City Councilman Terry Moore. “My wife and I watched it at my father-in-law’s house and I just can’t get over how dark it got.”
Moore said he remembered seeing an eclipse “back in the 70’s” but that it was “nothing like this.”
“That was really something to see,” he said. “How lucky for us that it happened right in our back yard.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.