The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 3

Solar Eclipse Day – Awesome doesn’t do it justice.

Eclipse day, just after ‘first contact’
It was an experience that I’ll always remember, and worth every mile of the 2,000 miles round trip to see it. It was a suspension of reality, turning your world upside down and dropping you into a fantasy science fiction movie. Where a ring in the sky emits darkness, light glows up from the ground all around you, temperature drops, and wildlife freaks out. It was surreal.

It started with another wave of airplanes arriving all morning.  A constant stream of airplanes taxiing to the day parking and camping areas. One needed to be very careful walking around with spinning props everywhere. But it was a rush sitting on the hill mid-runway looking at the string of airplanes entering the pattern and then landing. One after another, every few minutes, all morning long.

Crossing lines of aircraft taxiing to parking or camping is a challenge
As the eclipse started, many converged around the main gazebo, while others remained in their group camping compounds. Lots of chatter, people peering skywards through plastic spectacles, others with boxes over their heads, still others placing their glasses over phone cameras for a quick social media post.

My playful side so wanted to go over and ‘knock’ on their front door!
As the eclipse progressed, light levels started to drop, it got noticeably cooler to the point the hair on my arms and neck stood up and goosebumps appeared. I’m not sure if it was the cold, or the event causing it. Either way, gladly accepted as the temps were in the mid-90’s and humid. People started to converge into small groups across the open areas.

The descending darkness was eerily unusual. Glow along the horizon as if the sun had just set but in all directions, with darkness and stars above. Something you have known your entire life to be true, gets turned completely upside down in a matter of minutes.

seconds before totality
Just before totality, darkness descending upon us
Then the corona at third contact, lots of cheers, everyone was ecstatic. What a vibe that reverberated throughout the crowd. People were commenting on the events to anyone nearby, as if talking with long time best friends. Everyone was upbeat and on a high.  If only we could bottle that the world would be a better place. The comments overhead confirmed that everyone was awestruck.

So, I can hear it now, “You’re a photographer, where are your eclipse photos?”.

I didn’t take any!

total eclipse
Video still frame of the total eclipse taken from my iPhone video clip.
It was a once in a lifetime event, lasting only a few minutes. I didn’t want my eyes and brain engrossed in f-stops, shutter speeds, ND filters, and ISO settings. I wanted to enjoy the eclipse. To soak up the event as it unfolded in front of me and not behind a lens, and let it just create a lasting memory.  I had left my camera in my van, unencumbered from the tedious aspects of capturing the spectacle. I only used my iPhone for a few quick video clips before and after. Instead, I just sat there and stared at the sky in awe.

And it was worth it. Every second of it.

And then, sadly, it was gone.

Within the hour after the eclipse, an endless stream of airplanes were crowding taxiways Alpha and Bravo to depart. Chatter on the tower frequency suggested wait times of 30 to 45 minutes to get airborne.

Two days later, and I was again alone at Triple Tree. I departed en-route for a quick overnight in Virginia on my way to the Warbirds over Westport event in NY.



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