Into The Unknown - The Great American Eclipse of 2017
The ancient Greeks believed that a solar eclipse was a sign of angry gods and that it was the beginning of disasters and destruction. Here we are, a week before the eclipse and a couple of political leaders with nuclear weapons at their disposal are threatening to use them against each other. Hmmm....
Early this spring the articles and postings about the solar eclipse began. I was intrigued, but busy with other things so I didn't pay too much attention. Well, that's not actually entirely correct. I did pay attention enough to decide it was going to be crowded in the eclipse path so I made plans to be far away from it in the Eastern Sierras. I'm seldom excited about being in a crowd. Then last month, I met some people in Oregon who had been making their plans for it for the last 7 years. They invited me to join in and got me on a wait list for a camp site in central Oregon. A few days ago, an email arrived notifying me that I am in.
I have only the issue of lacking a few key items to make the photographs I imagine I would like to make. Fortunately, I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area right now where there are still photographic supply stores, and the internet right at my fingertips. The internet came through with perhaps the last two solar filters available on the planet. The supplier just lacked the pieces needed to attach the filters to my lenses - and they didn't tell me that until after my order arrived. A phone call to Samy's Cameras in San Francisco and a drive into the city - with my big truck in afternoon traffic - got me the last two of the pieces I needed... I did get to drive over my favorite bridge.
Now I'm only missing one more piece - a motorized mount that could move the camera along with the sun as it moves through the sky. Lacking this piece I have to stay close to the camera if I want to record the sun & moon dance in the sky. The sun actually moves faster than you think through the frame of a telephoto lens. That might slow me down from using a second camera to photograph the landscape and other things I'm imagining I'd like to record.
The last solar eclipse I photographed was partial and I was busy printing work. I made a quick iPhone photo of it as it shone through the window blinds onto a wall. The one I photographed before that was May 2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I didn't have the correct filter setup, but I stacked all the neutral densities I had, closed my camera as far down as I could and went for it. That eclipse was an Annular Eclipse - a "ring of fire" with a dark center because the Moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun's. The Moon passes right over the sun, but doesn't completely eclipse it.
I'll be a bit more prepared for this eclipse than I ever have been, but I'm still going to be winging it in some or many respects. That's what much of making art is anyway. There is always an aspect of making it up and figuring it out as I go along - using my imaginative faculties. Art is an adventure, an exploration. Art is a journey into the unknown, the uncharted - the realm of the imagined, the imagination...