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Jason H. Friesen, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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A trip to Bryce Canyon to view the solar eclipse

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Dr. Jason Friesen, who is an avid photographer, traveled to Bryce Canyon National Park in May to see and photograph the rare "annular" eclipse of the sun. That's when the moon passes directly in front of the sun, but instead of blocking it completely, leaves a "ring of fire" glowing around the edge of the moon. Here is Dr. Friesen's account of his trip:

I had never witnessed a solar eclipse, and when I learned about the 2012 annular eclipse, I immediately searched for a good spot to view it. I found that it passed directly over Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. It was a place I'd always wanted to visit anyway, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone. I gathered four other friends, and in May we flew into Las Vegas and then made the four- or five-hour drive to Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon. Instead it was created by eons of erosion from rainwater, which carved the special rock there into hoodoos. These delicate pinnacles of rock often have strange and beautiful shapes. The place was declared a national park in 1928.

The park sits at 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level, which makes for chilly nights even in May. The coldest night got down to the upper 20s. I had on nearly every layer of clothing I had with me to keep warm in my sleeping bag. The elevation also makes hiking a bit more strenuous. But despite the chilly nights and the elevation, the trip was well worth it. Bryce offers a unique landscape that takes your breath away (or maybe that was the elevation).

All of us on the trip were avid photographers, so we lugged 10 to 15 pounds of equipment around wherever we went. I was the most frugal of the group and still found myself taking 300 to 500 pictures that weekend. One of us took more than 2,000.

Not only does Bryce offer beautiful landscapes, but it also has some of the least light polluted skies in the United States. After a long day of hiking, we would return to camp for dinner and relaxation and then head back out to shoot the stars and Milky Way often until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.

Because of the eclipse, there was an astronomy festival going on. Amateur astronomers would set up telescopes for people to view different celestial objects. "Constellation tours" were given where the stars were pointed out with a powerful green laser.

Finally, the day of the eclipse arrived. We had carefully mapped out a location inside the canyon where we could shoot the eclipse as it stood near the rim of rock. We wanted to shoot it within the context of the landscape. Most people were on the rim of the canyon to observe the event so we basically had the place to ourselves.

Over the next two hours, we set up our gear and started to watch the moon eat away at the sun. Special glasses and filters were needed to view it with our eyes and shoot it with our cameras. Even at the point of maximal coverage, the ring of the sun was still too bright to view with the naked eye. Even with filters, the shot I was able to capture here also required a special technique called HDR photography.

Still, all the planning and travel paid off. We were able to get some good shots. After the event, we celebrated with a beer bought at the general store and hiked back out to our car. Then we headed back to Las Vegas, arriving at 2 a.m. for a night's sleep and a plane flight back the next day.

For those who love nature and our national parks I recommend Bryce Canyon. I rank it second only to Yellowstone among the parks I've had the pleasure to visit.

View Dr. Friesen's photography here.

Tagged in: Travel

Board certified in pediatrics, as well as allergy and immunology, Dr. Jason Friesen sees patients of all ages. Caring and bright, he is passionate about finding a balance between the seriousness of food allergies and the importance of leading full and normal lives