Just a short note – was in Salem Oregon for the Eclipse on August 21 2017. Most surprising (and awesome) to me was the stark difference between totality and 99%.
If you weren’t in the totality, you missed something special, regardless of how “close to total” you were. With even just a sliver of the sun still showing, it’s too bright to (safely) look at the sun. You still see that sliver very brightly through your protective glasses, regardless of how “close to total” it is.
At totality, you can’t see anything through your glasses – and you can (safely) take them off! At that point you see the corona of the sun, which is normally completely swamped out by the sun’s brightness. The sky gets dark – really dark, like night – and you can see stars. But it’s odd because the horizon still has daylight or at least dusk-like characteristics, if you are somewhere where the horizon is outside of the shadow zone.
Pictures taken of the totality and the partial stages don’t really illustrate the difference between the two views, because the process of photography (necessarily) equalizes out the stark difference in brightness.
That said, here are two cool pictures taken by someone in my group in Salem at the totality and just after the totality.