Goblin Valley State Park Utah – Annular Eclipse

At the last second, I decided to try my luck getting images of the 2023 annular eclipse. With three days to go, I found a room about an hour from where I wanted to be. The eclipse exceeded my expectations.

Feature Image Details

Getting a shot like this requires a lot of planning, some luck, and a wide variety of tools and equipment.


I do not recommend waiting until three days before an eclipse to try to get a room. I got lucky twice. I found a room in another place but before I could press confirm someone else grabbed it. But I did nab the last room at a Motel 6 in Green River. That was about an hour away from Goblin Valley, my second choice where to go. In retrospect it should have been my top choice.


PhotoPills is best planning app for planning the sun, moon, and milky way. I use Photo Pills for every milky way shot I take. It has a date set function as well as augmented reality to show where various sky features will be and at what time. Scouting around in Goblin Valley I found this spot.

I was looking for a spot where I could silhouette myself against the sky. I would not have found this spot without the app. You can move a slider to adjust the time to see where the sun, moon, or milky way will be. The position I selected was about 5 yards from this screen capture. I found the spot on Friday the 13th of October, the day before the eclipse and set the app for the next day to see where the sun would be.

The spot I selected was about a quarter mile from the main parking spot. Although the park was flooded with people by mid-morning, I had this location to myself except for one person who wandered through near totality.

The park opened at 3:00AM. Rangers said the park might fill up as early as five AM. So I got up at 2:22AM with about three ours sleep and arrived at the park about 3:15. Sunrise was after 7:00 but I got up at 6:00 or so to get in location and take some early morning shots.

The sky was clear, which was what I wanted. I knew I could get a sunburst shot (two actually, the sun touched the rock formations twice). These sunburst and starburst patterns occur as light bends around objects. The number of blades on a lens diaphragm determines the number of rays. Am odd number of blades produces double the rays.

Canon’s 16-35 MM F4 lens is one of the sharpest lenses ever and it produces a beautiful 18-point sunbust.

I was fearing afternoon clouds so I decided to take my silhouette in the morning. This was an excellent move as I will show with additional images coming up. This is what the first blends looks like.

An Intervalometer

As you can probably tell it’s not easy to take a picture of yourself with the 10-second timer that most cameras give you. Even if you can get there in 10 seconds It’s a bit of a chore for one shot.

I have another image of me standing on the top of the middle rock in a very precarious position.

The EOS R5 mirrorless camera has a built in intervalometer. I programmed it to take a shot every 20 seconds continually until I turned it off. So, that’s me with a second camera and second tripod, blended with the starburst image.

Tripod Didn’t Move for 3 Hours

I took images about every 5 minutes of so and used images about 15 minutes apart. I exposed for the sun everything else was black. If you bought eclipse or solar glasses you know what I mean. Everything is totally black except for a tiny orb.

To safely do this, you need a solar filter on your lens. I took various images manually. In reviewing them, I accidentally moved the camera twice and this made for a bit of mess stitching the images together so they looked right.

Moon Blend

As you can see, a solar filter will block everything but the brightest part of the sun.


I stacked the moon images in a Photoshop then blended in the daylight starburst silhouette image as a photoshop “smart object” with the blend mode to Maximum (the lightest part of each image). This automatically removed all the black. I then added back the black for the fullest portion of the annular eclipse.

A tip of the hat to Michael Frye for his 2017 Eclipse Journey that describes some of these techniques.

Angle of View

A 50mm lens on a 35mm camera has a similar perspective to the human eye. I used a 16 mm lens which has a much wider perspective making objects look small. To compensate, I increased the size of the sun. This was not necessary for the starburst. The starburst is as taken straight out of the camera.

Clouding Up

There were high thin clouds that would have made a terrible mess of things had I waited to get the silhouette of me at peak totality. However, the clouds were thin and did not interfere with the sun images for the blends.

I was cursing the clouds but they made for some very interesting images.


To get a shot like this you need PhotoPills or some other app, scouting time, two cameras, two tripods, a solar filter, an intervalometer, cooperative weather, masking and blending skills in Photoshop, and of course an eclipse.


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

4 thoughts on “Goblin Valley State Park Utah – Annular Eclipse

  1. @ Jim Simon…..my comment exactly…..WOW!

    Mish, excellent description on what steps you had to take to accomplish the shot. Much admiration.

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