It’s fun to meet a friend for sunset on the beach. It’s always a great time to relax, sip some wine and have a good conversation. Of course, this works if you live on the West Coast of Anywhere — Florida, California, Hawaii or any location in the world.
But sunset is extra special when the sun paints the clouds vivid shades of orange, pink, peach, mauve, and grey. It’s even nicer when the beach is quiet and a small egret walks along the sparkling shore.
In literature, water often sustains life. It feeds the thirsty. Thirsty humans, animals and plants. In rivers, it flows past us in a strong steady current, often signifying our journey through life. Other times, arriving in storms it taketh away. Floods overpower human settlements and people. It kills.
What does this ocean image say to you? Is it dangerous and menacing, or does it bring you peace?
The arid landscape that you often find in California is raised up in both beauty and comfort by the Pacific Coast. While you hike, it is hot and dry and sometimes dusty. But here in Point Lobos State Reserve, you feel the ocean breezes and your eyes feast upon the soothing sight of crashing waves. The coast line, pleasingly irregular, hides a new view behind every incline and bend in the path. Just keep walking.
The artist in me loves a scene with vivid complimentary colors — like yellow and blue, for example. On a sunny September morning, I found yellow and orange hues in the moss and wildflowers along the coast of Point Lobos — creating that pleasing color contrast with the blue Pacific Ocean.
The stone archways tell a story of powerful water erosion over time, even though the water is rather still at this moment. The distant hillside talks to us as well. It encloses the bay, providing a peaceful, green backdrop.
To reach Point Lobos State Reserve, drive south of Carmel, California on Route 1. To purchase prints of the California coast, or other photos featured in this blog, please visit my website: http://www.cathykellyphotography.com.
On June 25, I got inspired to photograph the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. I was sitting in my 97-year-old mother’s sitting room while she watched TV and I was reading articles on the Web. Looking at a NASA map of the Zone of Totality, I estimated the cheapest flight from Pittsburgh to the Zone, would be Atlanta. I chose a site in South Carolina near the Georgia border. Concerned about supply and demand, I immediately booked plane tickets and a Hampton Inn and ordered solar glasses. Within a few days of hearing my crazy plan, my husband volunteered to come with me for moral support. My mission to study specialized photographic techniques began.
Most helpful was the iBook “How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse” by Alan Dyer, who has traveled to numerous eclipse sites around the world. Dyer describes many different approaches and urges you to get geared up and practice. Which camera and which lens? Still photos or video? Weighing the relative difficulties of each, could I manage two set-ups, and still enjoy watching the eclipse?
I bought photographic solar filters in three sizes, an additional “Really Right Stuff” ball head for a second tripod and an intervalometer. I developed a plan to operate my Sony a7rII with a 24 mm lens and no filter on one tripod. An intervalometer would operate it automatically to take a photograph every 6 seconds for 90 minutes, so that later a time lapse video could be made. The second tripod would hold my Nikon D800 with a 200mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter (for a 280mm equivalent focal length), dedicated to taking close-ups of the Corona at Totality. Examining the options, I decided the image resulting from this set-up was my top choice. The close-up requires a solar filter to capture all the partial eclipse images. During Totality I would remove the filter and bracket shots (ISO 100 and f/8) one stop apart from 1 second as the longest exposure to 1/1,000 second as the fastest (1 sec., 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000), to capture the various levels of luminosity of the Corona. These images would later be combined with layers and masks to create one very special image. It was going to be tough to remain calm and also watch and wonder during Totality, as I knew I would feel really excited and Totality would last only 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
From Atlanta, we drove 2 hours north to a Hampton Inn in Hartwell, Georgia on Sunday night. On Monday morning, we left the hotel around 9am to drive another half hour to Anderson, SC to a recreational park I had pinpointed on Google Maps on Lake Hartwell. We arrived at the park, happy to find plenty of parking spaces, a lovely lake view, blue skies and a few trees to provide shade. Thanks to our Sewickley friend Sarah Hay Rawls, who lives in Atlanta now, we had some chairs to sit in while we waited 4 hours for the action to begin.
Just imagine how we felt as clouds formed just at the WRONG TIME and covered the Sun for most of the eclipse duration. Yes, weeks of focused study, a few hundred dollars in equipment, flights, hotels, rental car and two days of priceless spousal support would result in… what exactly?
Here is the image my Sony was capturing every 6 seconds. (Turn it off.) We looked at one another and shrugged.
Okay, what is the good news? I captured a few close up images during the first few minutes of the partial eclipse.
The other advice that helped me manage my disappointment was from my photography mentor Gary Hart, an accomplished landscape photographer, who advised me to savor the moment and not get too involved fiddling with the camera during Totality. In fact, many solar eclipse experts emphasized that advice. Gary said, “I refuse to be so focused on getting the shot that I fail to appreciate this experience of a lifetime. I’ll take a great memory over a great photo anytime.”
We had a great experience in multiple ways — the wonderful Park family we met there, the serene setting by Hartwell Lake, the mystery of the darkening and lightening of the sky during Totality and the inexplicable special feeling that came with bearing witness to this phenomenon of Nature. I will post my video of totality in my next post.
Stock photos of Kirkjufell at sunset with three waterfalls in the foreground had captured my imagination before our Iceland trip. How I wanted to see that scene in person, and even take my own photo on location! But alas, I realized that the sun doesn’t set in summer until close to midnight, and the logistics just would not work.
Would my only photo of Kirkjufell be this one through the bus window?
As our ship left the harbor that evening, I got one more chance to photograph Kirkjufell and the surrounding mountains. Note to Self: while capturing the iconic photo you admire can become a treasure hunt that grows into an obsession, there is much to be said for creating your own unique set of images, rather than duplicating the classic shot. In fact, I will remind myself that creating my own unique images is the best path to take.