An Eclipse With a Surprise

Tsali Notch Winery - plenty of open space for eclipse viewing.

What?  Did you really think I was not going to bring my camera with me to the eclipse?

Actually, for some time, I thought, "No, I won't. I want to experience it."

But, to be fair, I get more from the experience if I am capturing it, someway, somehow.  And for this eclipse . . . boy, I am glad I had my camera at hand.

One of my group of friends, Eddie Foley.

I chose to meet up with friends at Tsali Notch winery in Madisonville, TN.  For some time, the media was branding next-door Sweetwater as the sort of "ground zero" of the eclipse and I wanted to be at a spot where I would have a long viewing of totality (2 minutes, 37 seconds) but I could also watch a crowd of people.

We were able to get there early, set up a shade cover, and kick back with food and drink - not bad, and even a soft breeze blowing.  

A word about Tsali Notch . . . beautiful.  On a nice day, I cannot think of a more pleasant place to be, to buy a bottle of their muscadine wine and sit out on the patio, enjoying an expansive view of the mountains beyond in the Cherokee National Forest.  Add to that the fact that the weather was perfect for the viewing, and you can see why a number of scientists, as well as National Geographic, made camp there.


Dr. Gordon Telepun talking to media about what to expect.

I noticed the "science" leaked out of even the casual observers.  At 1:05 pm, all eyes - protected by solar glasses - went to the sun and the cry went up:  "C1!  C1!  We have first contact!"  

Once the eclipse started, I took some time to watch the changes here on earth.  Let me offer some observations as a photographer.  First, it is amazing how much of the sun can be covered and it is still very bright around you.  This attests to just how powerful the sun is, that only a sliver can light our world.

But as the light dimmed and the temperatures dropped, I began to really notice the change in the quality of light and what it did to colors.  Blues and greens became more pronounced; while they lost luminance, they became more saturated.  The sky was definitely taking ona  cooler color caste.  Working in Lightroom as often as I do, I could see the individual color controls and God moving the sliders to the right and to the left.

Photographing the actual sun and moon were not my thing.  I will leave that to experts at NASA that have the equipment we do not to do that.  T be honest, gear means more than skill here.  Instead, I tried to capture the feel for what it was like for us standing on the Earth.

Look at the changing light.

The shadow approaches from the north west.  Freaky.

My own spawn, my son, Patrick.

And then - the moon covered the sun.  Totality.  And off came the glasses and up went the cheer.

I liken this picture - a family together, experiencing something awesome.  This is grainy because it was quite dark.

There was a sunrise, 360 degrees around the horizon with the shadow of the moon overhead.

And then the sun started to come back - too soon, too soon, but we do not control the heavens.  And as before, the light began to grow rapidly, since only a portion of the sun can light the earth.  

Time to put the glasses back on.

But now for the surprise.  While we were waiting for totality, my friend and fellow photographer, Tammy Lee, came over to me with a mimosa in hand.  She came close and lowered her voice.

"If I tell you something, do you promise not to freak out?"

"No, " I said, "but tell me anyway."

"This man who gave me this mimosa, he's sitting over there.  Blue shirt.  At C3 [the point when totality ends and the sun starts to reappear] he's going to propose to his girlfriend."

I smiled.  "Let's get in place . . ."

And so this happened:

Sure, distract the girlfriend with a solar eclipse to get the ring out . . .

"Look at the diamond ring!" Brittney said.

"Look down," James replied.

"Will you marry me?"

And she said yes.

Okay, this was the cherry atop the sundae for me, to be awed by the sun and moon, and then to be a witness to love during an eclipse, especially significant as the light is coming back and the day is growing brighter.

Can you imagine telling this story to your future children?  "Tell us again, Mommy, what happened during the eclipse!  Tell us the story . . . and show us the pictures!"  This is a family's history, now - powerful!

I see this at proposals - the "I can't believe you did this" look.  I know women like to look their best - Brittney said, "I don't even have my contacts in!" - but look at how James is looking at her.  To him, she is the most beautiful thing he has seen at that moment.

Congratulations to Brittney and James!  May they enjoy a long lifetime together of happiness and health!

Eclipse 2017 at Tsali Notch was awesome - and what a great finish to an extraordinary event.