Looking Into The Eye of the Sun

   Recently, my best friend & fellow photographer sent me a Variable Neutral Density Filter for my birthday. I immediately set out on a mission to master it & to also scout out a suitable perch from which I would photograph the eclipse. I needed a spot that was high up.... one of the only spots meeting that description was a giant grassy hill, Mount Trashmore. I know what you are thinking... (Those of you who are not from Hampton Roads, Virginia) - & yes, there really is such a place called Mount Trashmore & Yes, it is created from trash. haha!!! On occasion, it has been known to sprout a leak here & there... but not today! Today, I would "catch a tiger by it's toe!"; I would stare into the eye of the sun! 

     So, I headed out - no need to bring a camera bag with all of my goodies... I would only bring my camera, 70-200mm lens equipped with my new filter & my tripod - good to go! Upon arrival, I scanned the crest of the "mountain" to pick my spot - I needed a location that was at the highest peak & preferably with the least amount of people... I certainly needed to stay away from anyone who might be flying a kite! That could be disastrous!!! With eyes set on my prime location, I headed up the face of the "mountain" - I opted not to take the stairs... too many people there - I didn't want to draw any attention. The moment was about me, my camera and a date with the Sun. Huffing & puffing, I made it to the spot, set up my gear & lens pointing upward to the sun, I fired off my first shot... This was going to be tough. It was so bright out that I couldn't see my shots in the screen on my camera - save some occasional shade from passing clouds. So, flying blind, I made adjustments here & there based off of my photographic knowledge & instincts. I was having a blast, but it was blazing hot and the air thick with humidity. I decided I had had enough - not to mention, it was killing me to not be able to see what I was capturing. I was excited to race home & see how I had done! 

     That's when I realized the horror.... UGH!!! I felt a wetness on the back of my pants... I had apparently been sliding around on goose poop & in my favorite Lucky Brand jeans!!! OMG!!! Nooooo... I needed to get home & with a quickness!!! Urgency had set in! Quickly, I grabbed my tripod with camera still attached & began to scurry down the hill when I spy an adorable little old man with his 2 grandchildren heading in my direction!!! no no no! "Do not engage in eye contact! Just keep moving!" I said to myself.... The man's voice rose over that of my own like a foghorn in the mist, "Oh WOW!!! You must be a professional photographer! What kind of filters do you use?" My attention immediately snapped from my inward thoughts of exodus to the old man, smile beaming on his face; the children running around him as if he were a may pole.... Normally, I would be more than happy to wile away the hours conversing about photography... but I had goose poop smeared to the back of me... DOOOOOOM!!!!

     I forced a smile back at him & chatted for a bit, but I could feel the wetness of the goose feces cold against my skin. The smell was becoming a bit more noxious - I was certain there was no way he could not see the glowing green stain down the back of me... Sweat pouring from my brow, I could feel the sense of anxiety and urgency surging & pounding, becoming deafening in my head... I needed a plan! I needed to get away!!!.... think think think.....  I've got it!! The man had commented on my gear - I would use it to my advantage! It's getting heavy, it's hot! Yes, play that up! Exaggerate a face of anguish!!! Surely, he will pick up on the cues! - these are the thoughts going through my head as the man continued to chat on & on. Like an Oscar winning actress, I amplified the anguished expression and even slumped my body posture to emphasize the fact that I was holding heavy camera equipment under a blazing hot sun. SUCCESS!!!! The man took note! He wished me good luck at capturing the coming eclipse and we said our polite goodbyes. HOORAY!!!

     I headed on down the hill toward my car, holding the camera gear over the florescent streak on my bum. I was on the home stretch!!! Quickly.... just get to the car.... but NOOOO!!! The parking lot was full of people! Oh the anxiety! Just keep walking.... make your way through the sea of people... if you don't look at them, they can't see you.... this hadn't worked with the old man, but maybe it would work here.... Like a crab, I dodged sideways between the cars, hiding my backside & trying not to bang the cars with my tripod... WHEW!!! I made it! A sigh of relief.... Right then & there, in that moment, I knew Mount Trashmore would not be my perch for the eclipse. I would need to find another locale. The next few days, I searched & searched but in the end, I found the best spot to be was simple... The place to be was Home.

Below is a slideshow of the images I was able to capture on this day as well as some rather unconventional & abstract images of the Solar Eclipse. I hope you enjoy looking through my eyes to see what I saw when I looked into the eye of the sun. 

Chasing the Milky Way

A few weekends ago, I had the privilege of going on a photographic adventure to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my buddy, Russell Pugh (an amazing landscape & astro photographer - check his work out at http://www.russellpughphotography.com/ )... The mission was to chase the Milky Way & photograph it over the Bodie Island Lighthouse as well as the Pea Island Coast Guard Station. We caravanned down & arrived to Bodie Island just in time to catch the sunset & what glorious sunset it was - BONUS! At first, I did not think I had ever been to this location but then to my horror... I saw the signs.... UGH!!! (Those of you who know me personally know about my extreme fear of snakes... I admit it's outright comical....) - well... the signs said in big letters, "BEWARE: SNAKES" & displayed an image of one of the terrifying creatures below the warning. OMG!!! Suddenly the memories came flooding back to me! I had indeed been to this place once before! It was on my birthday 2 years ago & I did, without a doubt as the signs had warned, seen a snake - a poisonous one curled up next to the wooden boardwalk path leading to the crow's nest vantage point. UGH!!! I shudder just thinking of it! 

Anyhoo - I shook off the heebeejeebees & proceeded down the very same pathway to the crow's nest, making it a point NOT to look in the high marsh grasses flanking the pathway for fear I would undoubtedly see another snake. Now, mind you... some people claim to never see a snake in all their days; however those slithery creatures seem to be drawn to me as if all of the snakes in the world have gotten together & have conspired in some joke to always pop out whenever I am around.... sigh... walk, walk, walk  in a hurried pace....  SUCCESS!!! I made it to the crow's nest with Russ & no snakes were seen! woohoo! & just in time to catch the sun dancing upon the tops of the marsh grass & gently caressing the water. I had to take the shot!!! I call it, "Stay Golden."

OK! So I caught the tiger by it's toe, it was time for my lesson from Russ on how to now catch the mystical Milky Way! He gave me some valuable pointers & a pre-lesson as when the real lesson was to begin, it would be pitch black & I would be fumbling around trying to figure things out. We mastered the timing of the lighthouse light so as to get the beams and figured out where we would be shooting from for the best composition - he filled me in on the appropriate settings & such... now it was time to venture to Pea Island to put the lesson to practice. We got to Pea, & alas we had to traverse through some marshy grass which, naturally, I was thinking was a delightful place to curl up if I were a snake... haha - they are ever-present on my mind! So we made it to the Coast Guard Station & the stars began to dance. Before I knew it, there were bazillions of them!!! It was definitely a sight to behold with the naked eye, but when I fired off the first shot in proper exposure, I could see so much more with the help of the lens!!! I had never seen so many stars before - & then.... there it was! The Milky Way - a wondrous sparkling star dust trail in the sky! The reward of seeing this majestic sight was well worth the snake fear, the sand blown face, the bumps and bruises from falling & fumbling around in complete darkness. 

Russ grabs me & says, "OK - now it's time for the real show! - the lighthouse with the Milky Way in the background!" We already had our composition in our heads & it was now time to capture it! So back to Bodie we went..... when the realization hit me.... I was going to have to go past the snake signs & down the path by the snake grass in order to get to my vantage point in pitch blackness.... derp!... The pathway was cluttered with the hoards of photographers who took their positions to capture the same splendor... I took a deep breath... "OK - I got this!", I said to myself reassuringly. I was being silly - surely I didn't really need to worry about snakes... besides, I had studied the lighthouse's light bursts & knew the exact timing & rhythm.  Every 20 seconds there would be a saving grace burst of light followed by a quick secondary burst! Hooray! The lighthouse has saved my life - or at the least my nerves! haha! I waited for the lighthouse to flash it's savior light & took off walking as fast as I could down the pathway through the maze of determined photographers. When the light went away, I paused momentarily & chatted with a nearby photog so-as not to look strange just standing around waiting for the light to shine once more. The light flashed again & I was off & running down the next stretch of pathway but now I was to the tall marsh grass where I had seen a snake before & there weren't any photographers to deter them from appearing... My nerves felt as if they would pop out of my skin! UGH!! OK - so again a flash - this time I looked hard down the path, studying the lay of the land... then the 2nd burst & I hauled ass down the pathway & up the stairs to my perch at the crow's nest. Whew! I had made it! I could breathe & have a good laugh at my silliness! HA! Snakes! 

The rest of the evening was spent focusing on stars & nature's beauty & trying to time shots just right with the strobe of the lighthouse. This was a definite challenge for me & not just because of my reptilian "friends!" But more-so so I can perfect being still & getting everything in tack sharp focus. As a photographer, I am a "farmer" - one who cultivates my composition with careful planning & care. To shoot the Milky Way, you must be a "hunter." You must wait, precariously perched, awaiting the right moment to fire off a shot. It's such a rush! I'd really like to go back - maybe to another spot where I can focus on taking a photograph & not so much about little snakey-poos - & try to get EVERYTHING in focus, which I hear is close to impossible.... but that in itself is reason enough to give it another go! If you find yourself away from all of the light pollution, aim your camera at the brightest light in the sky, gain your focus & shoot for the stars!!!

Reverie - The Bodie Island Lighthouse

Reverie - The Bodie Island Lighthouse

 
Stay Golden - Sunset on Bodie Island, NC

Stay Golden - Sunset on Bodie Island, NC

 
Pea Island Dream Dust

Pea Island Dream Dust

 
Late Night Conversation

Late Night Conversation

The day of creation

Today was the day I created my very first blog.... I admit I am VERY intimidated by it... You guys get a glimpse into my soul through my artwork, but this blog is a bit of a "horse of a different color" when it comes to getting to know me, what my art is about, how it's created & who knows what else I share with you. This blog is about sharing - sharing of me with you & hopefully you sharing of you with me - the peek behind the curtain so to speak... lol!. So.... I guess - let's do this thing! Let's get to know each other.