Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eclipse (not the movie)

Yesterday.  Early in the morning.  Really, late the previous night.

Let's back things up a bit.


We had company for supper.  I pulled out the stops, thinking this was our last supper of the year with the group of young folks that we're mentoring.  Fancy bronze tablecloth.  Fancy china.  Fancy flatwear.  Actual serving dishes on the table.  Beef tenderloin, roasted garlic and Hawaiian black salt red potatos, caramelized yam coins, green beans, arugula salad.  Two bottles of wine, and Martinelli's, and a few fancy desserts, and we were living large.

I was hoping that folks would vanish once the food was gone, but I guess the conversation was too scintillating, and I found myself wanting to flick the lights on the last 4 stragglers, when I finally crawled upstairs at 11:45 with a "Well, you will excuse me if I vanish now, seeing as I have to be up again in four hours..."

You see, I was going to Photograph The Eclipse!

I was pretty rough around the edges at 430 when the alarm went off.  I'd forgotten why I'd set it, seeing as it wasn't Black Friday, or a day that we would be driving to Canada.  And I was still a little panic stricken, having been in the middle of a dream where our pastor took us out for lunch and the tab rang up at $618. "Six hundred and eighteen dollars?  For LUNCH?  The guilt!  Oh, it is crushing!  Oh wait... it was a dream?  Hold on... I guess I'll live..." I was muttering to myself as I gathered up all my camera gear, and my new hot tripod, and tiptoed out to the van.

When I got outside at 5am, I realized that the silly eclipse had started without me!  The earth's shadow was already starting to encroach on the moon, and i found myself driving like a banshee towards the coast, staring at the slowly-disappearing moon out my windshield, chanting "Stop shrinking, stop shrinking!"

The first beach I went to was closed.

Say what?  State parks?  They CLOSE?  Sunset to sunrise!?  Who knew?  So I had to boogie down the coast towards the public beach that Kelly and her friends ride horses on.  That beach shouldn't close.  At least, I don't think so...

Fortunately, the gate that blocks the road had mysteriously been opened, and i was not alone as I pulled into the public parking lot at Poplar Beach.  There were probably a dozen or more cars already in the lot.
I grabbed my stuff, and stumbled through the dark (curses, I didn't bring a flashlight) to the bluffs, where I quickly set up the tripod and camera, and started taking test shots.

I should have done a practice run.  I ruined a lot of shots before I got something even barely passable.  And even then, the lens I'd chosen wasn't the best, I think.  But I ran with it.

The first usable (meaning adequately in focus) shot:  5:45 am.

5:47am, and it's shrinking even faster!

5:55am, and the red glow is starting to show.

5:56am.  Oh no!  Atmospheric haze!  Please, not fog! 

But alas, it was true.  The marine layer was moving in, and within minutes, the red orb was completely obscured by the haze.
Phoooey.  But the sunrise was pretty sweet, looking in the other direction.

We started packing up our gear, us hearty frozen souls at the beach.

But the best part of the morning might have been the last-minute stop at the reservoir on the way back to the Peninsula.  The sun was just rising, still not visible, but turning the sky a brilliant palette.

It was a lovely reward for freezing in the dark.

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