Photographer Captures ‘Bird Trail’ Against a Solar Eclipse

Photographer Zev Hoover was shooting the solar eclipse early this morning when a bird happened to fly through the frame. He then decided to create this unusual image showing the trail of the dark silhouetted bird against the partial annular eclipse.

Hoover, a Boston-based imaging engineer and photographer, got up at 3:30 am and drove out to Quincy Beach with his girlfriend, Zoe Chakoian, and colleague, Christian Lockwood, to set up his camera equipment. He was shooting both still photos and 4K video with his Sony a7S III and a 1000mm refractive telescope at f/13, and the group’s goal was to get footage of the eclipsed sunrise with a Boston lighthouse in the foreground.

“Unfortunately for us in Boston, there was a dense cloud layer close to the horizon,” Hoover tells PetaPixel. “We set up our equipment on the Quincy shore overlooking the Boston harbor and waited for first light. As the Sun rose, the clouds began to thin, and the Sun actually peeked out just as the eclipse was reaching its fullest point.

“A Glaucous gull happened to fly through my frame [at 5:35am] perfectly silhouetted against the Sun and Moon at that moment, and I started recording on my telescope just as it passed by.”

A crop of the photo by Zev Hoover showing the details of the bird’s flight.

To create this “bird trail” image, Hoover stacked frames from the video he shot.

“The processing of the image was quite simple,” the photographer says. “Consecutive video frames were statistically combined as one might do to reduce noise, but instead of averaging, I used a minimum function.

“This is a way of including the dark silhouetted bird from every frame against the eclipse, without doing individual masking that is both tedious, and feels somewhat less authentic.”

Hoover says he feels fortunate that he was able to walk away from the beach with this lucky shot given that the trip had originally felt like a wasted effort due to unfavorable weather.

“Something about seeing the sinusoidal motion of the gull’s wings cut directly across the intersecting orbital paths of Sun, Moon, and Earth that make an eclipse image like this possible… strikes me as poetic,” Hoover says.

You can find more of Hoover’s work on his website, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram.

Image credits: Photograph by Zev Hoover, Christian Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian and used with permission