So, I set my alarm for 5:30 thinking I would just catch a little bit of the eclipse before the sun came up. I really wanted to see more, but I’ve been so straight out I opted for sleep.
However, my son had other plans. 3am rolls around and I hear him calling “Daddy”, so after getting him settled back to sleep I was wide awake and the light streaming in from outside was calling me.
So, I pulled on some clothes, kissed the wife (so she knew I’d gone out), grabbed my camera (D200), my biggest lens (Nikon 80-400 mm), tripod and cable release … and headed out the door …
Being on the East Coast, I knew I would only get to see the beginning of the eclipse before the moon set and sun rose. The sky was cloudless. The moon was so bright I didn’t bother bringing a flashlight. It was perfect eclipse viewing weather. Being 3:30 am meant it was free of mosquitoes too.
A downside of being on the East Coast is that it is not ideal for viewing things happening on the western horizon. Just too many trees. The highest point with a clear western view was about 45 minutes drive away, so I headed that way.
Just a few minutes into my drive I passed a large open field with a small hill at one end (I was on the right side, close to the largest clump of trees in the field). This happens to be the same field I collected some monarch caterpillars to watch undergo metamorphosis with my son. Every day for the last two weeks I go to this field and get fresh milkweed for the growing larva. All they do is eat for two weeks straight. I read that if a human baby grew proportionally as much as a monarch caterpillar did in those two weeks it would weigh 8 tons!
3 of the caterpillars in my house were midway through their preparations for becoming beautiful jade jewels. This consists of anchoring themselves to a sturdy perch and hanging upside down for about 14 hours before turning themselves inside out in the span of about 5 minutes. Then they hang out in a chrysalis for another two weeks …
So, I decided to skip the long drive and head for the hill in the field.
Have you ever stood out in the middle of a field at 4 am? Me either. I live in a pretty rural area of Southern New Hampshire. Lot’s of woods, and farms and new housing developments. Plenty of streams and ponds too. Very pretty place this time of year.
As I started walking into the field I could see it was blanketed in a low lying fog. The moonlight was almost as bright as day, and I had no trouble seeing my way into the field. There are no houses bordering this field. There are some close by though. It didn’t take long to make it to the top of the small hill and set up my tripod.
It was surreal in the most beautiful way. Fog and dew and moonlight and being completely alone. It was so perfect!
… and it was so bright I killed some time photographing spider webs that were about 15 feet away …
and the tall grasses …
I was also listening to all the night sounds. I heard crickets (of course), the barred owl’s distinctive “who, who, who cooks for you” call back and forth, roosters (at 4-fricken-30 and no sun in sight), dogs barking, and (I-swear-to-the-Speculative-Being) coyotes howling … that was when the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
The occasional car puttered past oblivious to it all.
The eclipse show began around 4:50 (yes, I was 50 minutes early) and just as it was nearing totality the sun was rising behind me, and the sky became too bright to see it.
As I stood there watching the Earth’s shadow move across the moon I thought a lot about all the other caterpillars in that field, munching leaves, hanging upside down, undergoing their own transformations … and the one’s in my house who would be in this field if we hadn’t switched places.
Sometimes it is worth getting up early.