Fantastic Friday: Eclipse

What a year this has been. As I wrap up the last full week of this school year, I finally have a second to breathe and to realize I haven’t found time to post many Fantastic Fridays this year. It’s not that I haven’t found things to feel fantastic about; it’s just literally, I think I’ve stared at a computer screen longer than I ever wanted to, ever thought possible. The last thing I want to do at the end of the week is type more on a screen. But now that school is coming to a close, I look forward to looking forward to the keyboard again.

This year, the year of technology, has me excited for fighting a broken copy machine next year all for the promise of being able to write things by hand and look away from a screen when talking to a student (and, indeed, look into a face instead of a circular icon on a Google Meet). It has me eyeing up my box of pens that I have barely touched this year (all grading has been done electronically). I’ve even been writing Corgi Capers Book 4 entirely by hand.

But ironically, technology (being a nuisance) is responsible for today’s Fantastic Friday post. Ever since Comet NEOWISE, I’ve tried to stay attuned to stellar events that I might be able to photograph. This year got the best of me, and I found out Thursday, June 9 that there would be a partial solar eclipse at sunrise the following morning.

I was woefully unprepared. At first I set my alarm, but then when I researched “photographing solar eclipses,” the warnings about shooting the sun with an unfiltered camera (you can break/burn/damage the sensors and other expensive equipment) had me scared. That, and the promise of cloud-cover, had me turn off my early alarm (that I had set just to capture the sunrise at 5:45). I figured, I would just sleep through it, wake up, and be none the wiser.

Fate had other plans.

I often love when fate has other plans.

Around 5:10, I was awoken by a phone. My husband usually turns his phone on silent, but this one time, he’d forgotten. His phone beeped with a “flash flood watch” alert due to impending storms expected later in the evening. The beep was enough to wake me, and I glanced out the window. Yes, it was cloudy as promised, but the exact area where the sun would rise was just a bit clearer than the rest of the sky. The clouds were gossamer and lacey.

I googled again about exposing cameras to the sun. Why could people photograph sunrises and sunsets without damaging their cameras? The answer came back to my advantage: the morning and evening sun is not as close or powerful, so while I still couldn’t view it with my naked eye, I could take a picture of it without (probably) damaging my camera.

I figured I’d been awakened for a reason, so I snuck out with my camera and phone.

Clouds.

I used the time to play with lighting. I set my camera to the darkest settings I could find in hopes of capturing the sun if and when it made its appearance.

I checked the app on my phone, the one that showed me what the eclipsed sun is supposed to look like at each moment of the eclipse. The eclipse peaked. Still clouds. On the app, I watched as the moon traveled further away from the sun.

Still clouds.

Time was getting away from me, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wondered if I was wasting time standing outside like that. I still had to pack lunch. I still had to get dressed into work clothes. The peak was over. The clouds were solid.

I sighed. I’d spent so long outside, there wasn’t even time for a quick workout. What did I have to show for my early rising?

I turned toward the house and took several steps. Just then, as I rounded the pine tree, I felt something warm on my shoulder. I felt the heat before I saw the light. The sun. A direct beam. Beckoning me.

The sun….

The sun?

The sun!

I set up the tripod again and frantically focused through the LCD screen (*Please take care: when photographing the sun, you must NOT ever look at the sun through a physical viewfinder: only through an LCD screen). Then, snap, snap, snap.

The tail end of the eclipse: the bottom left portion of the sun is “missing” as the moon passes over it.

The eclipse was at the tail end, but it was something!

The clouds returned even as the sun peeked out…

It seemed all was lost, but I felt the universe had one more surprise for me that morning.

Another view of the sun: the bottom left portion is “missing” as the moon passes over it.

When I first photographed the comet NEOWISE, I did not see the comet before I took a picture of it. I knew where it was supposed to be, did not see it, but shot the sky anyway, and I remember the feeling as I looked at that LCD screen—the magic of capturing something that was so ephemeral in the sky.

That same feeling took me yesterday—and, in fact, I was standing in nearly the same spot as when I first shot NEOWISE. There’s just something magic about the coincidence of circumstances that make something come to fruition: the alignment of stars and planets, the perfect mix of conditions on Earth to create life, the random way we meet the loves of our lives.

As I went to work, fighting the angst and malaise that is often the last week of school before summer break, I felt a bounce to my step. After all, a day isn’t all bad that starts with a solar eclipse.

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