Posted on June 3, 2020
If you follow me on social media, you know that I don’t get political online. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have political opinions, but photography needs to make you happy, and there are already too many unhappy photographers to inject politics into the mix. I’ve also learned, and I have the people I’ve met in my workshops to thank for this, that individuals with completely different social and political beliefs are not idiots, uncaring, morons, crazy, or whatever other pejorative you might be inclined to hurl. They’re good people who arrived at their values and beliefs through a completely different combination of family history, opportunities, life experiences, good/bad fortune, and present circumstances, than you and I have.
But I’m writing this post because yesterday, like millions of others, I shared a completely black image on my Instagram page to show my support for BLM. Not only did I feel like solidarity on the issue of police not killing innocent people is important right now, I also thought, wow, here’s something everyone can agree on. And for the most part I was right—I was thrilled to see the truly diverse support this simple act received, crossing traditional political and social boundaries.
On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this support wasn’t universal. I got a little pushback on my Facebook page (swiftly dealt with—to borrow from the late, great Tom Petty, it’s good to be king), and noticed that the number of followers of my Instagram page, which goes up every day, declined yesterday—from that I can only infer that some people were reflexively unfollowing anyone who posted a black image. To those people, I say good riddance.
Call me an optimist (or naive), but I’m hopeful that the United States has finally reached a tipping point, and real change is in store. So to pivot from politics to photography, I’m sharing this image from the 2017 total eclipse, because nothing in my portfolio expresses my hope better than the instant of sunlight’s return after a total solar eclipse. For those who haven’t had the privilege to witness one (mark your calendars for April 8, 2024), a total solar eclipse is one of those transcendent moments in nature where humans’ insignificance is impossible to deny. I don’t think I’ve ever felt smaller than I did at the instant I clicked this picture.
Because I can’t help but think that so much of our planet’s divisiveness would evaporate if we all had a clearer picture of our place in the Universe, I’m going to close with a few quotes from astronauts, who are uniquely qualified to speak on the subject:
Click an image for a closer look, and to view a slide show.
Posted on February 1, 2018
Since everyone else seems to be doing it, I thought I’d join the party….
I always schedule my Death Valley workshop to coincide with the January (or early February) full Moon, so it was just a coincidence that North America’s first super (a full Moon that’s within 90 percent of its closest approach to Earth), blue (the second full moon of a given month), blood (a lunar eclipse: a full Moon that passes into the Earth’s shadow and is bathed in light stripped of all but its red wavelengths by Earth’s atmosphere) Moon in 150 years coincided with my workshop. But since we were already there….
I got my group up to Zabriskie Point at around 4:30, well into the eclipse but before totality. Unlike most group photo events I’ve experienced, this morning’s crowd at Zabriskie was a little subdued—I suspect due to the early hour. Compared to the solar eclipse I photographed last August, a lunar eclipse moves with the speed of a glacier. While it was underway, I was able to assist my workshop students, set up my own equipment, switch lenses and camera bodies, experiment with exposure, gawk at the spectacle, and still had plenty of time to chat, laugh, and marvel with the rest of my group.
Starting with my Sony a7RIII, Sony 100-400 f/4 GM, and Sony 2x teleconverter, I cranked my focal length all the way out to 800mm and started clicking. After a while I pulled out my Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4, putting it on the a7RIII and switching the telephoto setup to my a7RII. Since time wasn’t a concern, I only used one tripod, switching the two bodies back and forth as my needs dictated.
Throughout the eclipse the Moon was softened by a thin layer of cirrus clouds. This image is among my first of the morning, before the Moon reached a band of denser clouds close to the horizon. I ended up with more creative captures, but those will need to wait for another day.