In the archives of...
LIFE, Henry Groskinsky
Full Eclipse, Winnipeg, Canada © 1979 Henry Groskinsky
Someone looks at the eclipse picture, and they think, “All he did was just go click, click, click, click.” But what happened in 1979 was first that I had to find a place to shoot the eclipse over the city of Winnipeg in Canada. I wanted to show the sun’s progress across the sky in a multiple exposure, so I had to compute the exact time of totality over the city. I started my exposures more than an hour before the eclipse. I exposed the sun every nine minutes to allow equal space between each image. I needed heavy neutral density filters because the sun remains bright even in partial eclipse. It’s only when it goes into full eclipse that I could take off the filters. I made this series through the totality.
There are a lot of mysterious happenings attached to eclipses. I had already set up a second camera to make a dramatic picture of the city at the moment of totality. I was going to shoot as many pictures as I could while the sun was hidden. I had all my holders ready to go. In this case, the eclipse began, and I started shooting with the second camera, but the shutter didn’t sound right. I ran around to the front of the camera, and I tried to unjam it, but it was stuck. I was still fiddling with the shutter when, all of a sudden, it starts getting light. The eclipse is over. As soon as it got light, the shutter worked, and it has worked ever since.
I got back to New York. I didn't know what I had. I process one piece of film; it's blank. I process the next piece; it's blank. I have the one piece of film from the secondary camera left. I say, “It probably needs a tiny bit of a push in the development, maybe a half a stop. That can't hurt it.” I put it through, and there it was.
(Interviewed on October 20, 1993. Excerpted from: John Loengard, LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, Boston, A Bullfinch Press Book, 1998)