The Center Of The Line Of Totality

Eclipse T Frenzy-11All images Leica SL and Various-Elmarit-SL 24-90 ASPH

We’d started planning on being in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the total solar eclipse more  than two years ago.  The Path of Totality was to take a diagonal line from Portland, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, but its path across the Tetons made this most beautiful of Western destinations pure catnip, and we knew we had to be there.  As the day approached, and with expectations in Jackson — a town of 10,000 — for Woodstock-like crowds, there was anxiety about where to be, and how to get there.  With the first contact beginning at 10:16 AM, and the Totality — that minute or so when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from our sight — expected at 11:34 AM, we left our house at 6:30 AM for what ordinarily would be a 15-minute drive across the valley.  We wanted to be as close to the center line as we could get, and of course we weren’t alone.

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Traffic came to a complete stop heading north from town, and since the one thing we dreaded most was being stuck on the highway during the eclipse, we contemplated turning around. After all, the sky is big and we had a perfect view from home across the Snake River.  But it was a temporary stoppage, and we were soon walking toward a bluff above the Gros Ventre River from where we would take it all in.

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People were already setting up along the ridge line by 7:15 AM, three hours before first contact.  While the sky to the West was clear, there were clouds around the sun as it rose to the East.

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Cars stretched back for a mile or more from the bluff where we set down our gear and seating, and enough food to last a day.  We often find our way on a summer’s evening to precisely this stretch of road, as along the river, there’s often an assemblage of male moose, and on  a warm night, as the Moon comes up over the Sleeping Indian — one of Jackson Hole’s visual landmark’s, a rock formation more properly called Sheep Mountain, resembling an Indian chief in headdress reclining — it’s as pretty a place to be as there is in the West.  But it was odd to be here in the morning, and in a crowd.

Eclipse T Frenzy-14Our assembled team was ready, and we willed away the clouds that might have obscured our view.

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At 10:16, with Eclipse glasses on, we could just begin to see the Moon cover up a portion of the upper right side of the Sun.  Within twenty minutes, as the Sun rose higher in the sky and the Earth rotated, the Moon could be seen as an object clearly closer to us than the Sun, creating the visceral sense that the Moon was somehow pressing itself between the Sun and us.  If you think about the odds of the moon being precisely the size that it could blot out the sun from our view, the miracle of what was to occur, the transcendence of the event, loomed large.

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It began getting chillier as the Moon covered up more of the Sun.  The light got flatter — we’d expected something like the ordinary course of the Golden Hour occurring, but in some ways it was the opposite, as color — and light — was bleached from the sky, not intensified as it normally is before sunset.  The Solar Eclipse app we’d downloaded let us know that the Eclipse was now just 15 minutes away and we braced to notice the changes to our visual environment as the disk of the Moon ultimately completely blotted out the Sun.

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The light took on what only can be described as an unearthly glow.  I have never seen light with that hue or quality.

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It began getting darker fast.  I turned around and now could see above me the Moon completely centered on the face of the Sun.  The Eclipse glasses were no longer needed.

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It was now not quite nighttime, but very dark all around us.  I decided it was dark enough that I could take a picture of the Totality above.

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It is a camera’s job to inject as much light as possible into an image, and the shot above has been further lightened a bit to showcase the effect of the Eclipse on the Wyoming landscape.  Time was now moving very fast, and the promised two minutes of Totality seemed to be going by in an instant.  Between trying to take pictures, viewing the Totality without the glasses, having to put the glasses on when the Sun’s light shot out from the right side of the Moon as it now began moving away from its position covering the Sun’s face, everything seemed to be moving very fast.  And still we we were able to stare right at the Totality, and take in an event that live is so much more powerful than a photograph can convey.

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Within moments, the day had begun all over again, and there was a second sunrise.  Or at least the Tetons were once more glowing from the return of the Sun.

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Very soon, it began getting fully light again.  The temperature having dropped precipitously as the Sun was being halved by the Moon, it once again began to get warm. Giddy from the experience, we circled one another in fellowship, in shared experience, immediately regretful we’d not been able to fully absorb what was happening in the all-too-brief time in which it was happening.  Experience again became familiar.  We were exultant, and because we’re human, regretful: why had this experience, so fast upon us after years’ anticipation, gone again so quickly?

We will spend the rest of our life remembering what it looked like during that brief moment, when by naked eye, we saw the Moon fully within the circle of the Sun behind it. We wish we could say time stood still, but it doesn’t, it roars on by, leaving us changed, and with memories.

2 Responses to “The Center Of The Line Of Totality”

  1. John – Wow, great shots! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Really appreciate the first person testimony and the beautiful photos.

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