Part One: The Eclipse
As I stood in the lovely pastoral fields with their golden amber crops gracefully blowing in the wind I could feel a cooler breeze rolling down the foothills of the Grand Tetons. About waist high, this coolness began to increase out of the West. My senses began to come into a sharper focus than I’ve ever experienced before. Something inside the core of me was alerting me to something amiss in the once warm summer afternoon.
The birds and critters had similar ill vibes as they too began to look or fly around wildly trying to figure out what was wrong with their internal clocks. While the moon began its cosmic cock-blockage, all well-filtered eyes were turned skyward. All except for our president. His eyes gazed heavenward sans eye protection.
The temperature continued dropping. The light seemed to fade, yet the sun was still pushing intense rays which seemed an attempt to defy the encroaching moon. Shadows played among the aspen trees in an eerie sharpness as the cool breeze danced among the leaves and branches.
Birds scurried about these branches seeking out nests or safe-heavens while their tiny minds are exploding with confusion and panic. As the last bits of the sun are consumed by the hungry moon, odd light patterns and refractions appear in my filterless photos. Enough so that you can see a faint crescent shape above the sun and nestled in the sharpening rays.
When totality is reached, all are silent. The horizon displays the deep blood red/orange glow of a recently set sun. But this time it circles the horizon in all directions. The concept that what we are witnessing is the outer edges of the moon’s shadow surrounding us boggles the mind. There is a two minute stillness that touches the very soul as all goggles come off and everyone takes in the world around them. A world once all too familiar is now completely alien. Completely estranged from our senses. As if we’ve all been transported to one of Jupiter’s moons. The very air we breath has changed. Cooler and somehow crisper. The energy is palpable.
There is a stirring in our lizard brain. An awakening that tells us that something profound is happening. Some people scream with shear delight while others journey inward to try to find some comparable experience in their arsenal of memories. All that comes up is that ancient lizard brain tingle and a ghost of a memory. Something so alien somehow feels eerily familiar. Perhaps the echoes of our ancient ancestor’s fear because this truly does have the gravity of the apocalyptic.
There, living in that fleeting few minutes, it feels as if we are all staring into the face of God. And what shakes our foundations is the more powerful feeling that God is staring back. It’s within this wondrous moment that I notice the diamond ring in my viewfinder. The five following photographs were all I dared to take. All I dared because there was magic all around us and not just in this humbling eye in the heavens. We were bearing witness to something spectacular. A cosmic transformation right in our backyards. Behold…
The sense of awe and wonder was thrilling and my heart was racing. Not only for the cosmic symphony around us, but also because I was juggling camera lenses and changing aperture and shutter settings wildly in hopes of getting at least one decent shot of the totality. To capture five (three of which displaying the “diamond ring” effect) was more than I could’ve hoped for. My humble lens and Nikon offering as much clarity and resolution as they could muster.
And what frail and flaccid things these instruments are. There is nothing that can compare to bearing witness in the flesh. No series of NASA designed devicery that can record the magic of living within the moon’s great shadow. Seriously, book the trip for the next one. Whatever it takes.
If only I hadn’t spent the previous three days drinking and smoking stuff in a total vacation Bacchanal celebration with four of my closest friends. Maybe then I would’ve been that much quicker with the photos or taken in more of the world around me. However, despite my handicap coupled with an overwhelming sense of awe, I managed to get off some great shots and had a profound moment. A life changing moment.
It should be noted at this point that the feature image above contains an eclipse that has been enlarged to show texture. Also, it was actually much higher in the sky so I sandwiched two images together.
As quickly as it had begun, the silence was lifted as the rays of the sun emerged once again. The birds began singing their song of relief and all the nocturnal critters mumbled to themselves, “Ah, what the fuck man!” and went back to bed.
I felt sorry for the latter half of the eclipse. A sense of “been there done that” was felt among the viewers across the nation. The sun seemed to say, “hey wait a minute, this too is exciting”. But the sun’s words fell upon deaf ears as my group could only focus on the magic that had just occurred. We were dumbfounded and jaw-dropped. We were electric with awe and excitement. And then we returned to drinking beer from the stream and smoking stuff through a modified apple (rest in peace rodeo queen).
Which brings me to part two of this epic adventure arriving shortly. The wonder and amazement that Wyoming (and neighboring Idaho) offered to us the remaining and proceeding days book-ending the eclipse. And how I got so lucky to go to a private ranch at the foothills of the Grand Tetons for zero of dollars and brought some close friends along for the ride. And how said ranch just so happened to be EXACTLY under the eclipse path for a perfect viewing.
Two words: total providence. Some pre-post spoilers for you… Quads, moose and flying machines!! Stay tuned for that! I just really wanted to get these eclipse photos out there as soon as possible. you know, while the country is still feeling the magic and all.