Monday, 17 April 2006

Turkish Extravaganza

Where the hell am I going to start with this one...

I know its late but its been difficult to collate my many thoughts on the experiences of this particular eclipse trip. Yet only as it was such a remarkable time. I reread what I wrote the day before the eclipse and am struck by how aware I was that the ride ahead was going to be an emotional wringer... I'm glad I wrote that then and could reread it now because in the weeks since then I have been oscillating between ecstatic and wonderfully weird.

I've been exhilarated most of the time exploring new avenues of desire and uncovering many secrets of the world yet have felt quite emotionally fragile at times too - shedding tears at random intervals and often just at the sight of something either beautiful or just poignantly human. My last day in glorious Istanbul was no exception – watching old men, just happily passing time or desperately trying to earn a lire with shoeshine or scales on which to weigh one-self. Flower-sellers surrounded by a wealth of vibrant colour in the sunshine yet themselves so obviously poor. All these drew tears from me but not so much for the sadness as somehow the beauty of the sadness. I even cried at the sight of hundreds of jellyfish bobbing by on the Bosphorous.

It all ended a couple of days ago, and I write this heavy with lack of sleep but afire with inspiration. Heavy also at the return to the streets of Soho, London that I have trudged for 10 years now and to a life that is less appealing than the carefree state I have been in for the last few days. I think that is down to an insight I had about myself as explorer/adventurer. Sometimes all my heart desires is to walk down a street I’ve never walked down and in so doing feel I am exploring the world. Sadly I have walked the same streets in London for too long. Yes I could move house and find a new neighbourhood to explore but why not rather move myself wholesale to another locale on this beautiful planet? By heavens one of these days I will see an eclipse with no plans to force my return to reality. Yes, in fact the very next one – to be sure.

Getting ahead of myself as usual, thoughts bounding ahead like a dog pretending to lead his master.

I sure as hell did cross some thresholds and perhaps indeed pass through the Gates of the Silver Key... And once you have crossed a threshold there is no going back, one cannot unknow something. Time will tell on that one.

Damn it was a good eclipse. My heart is heavy that I did not share it with some loved ones and I feel terrible that I will go on about the eclipse at their expense when they did indeed want to be present BUT as I owe god a death so I owe this witness's tale.

We camped at the lighthouse the night before the eclipse which was in itself a beautiful experience. The eerie and silent light arcing overhead all the time, mesmerising and worth the steep climb by itself. I include the location shot again to set the scene.

The day broke like any other without indication of the events to come. Clear skies and still air promised good viewing conditions. Heavy camera gear was dragged further up the mountain to the best vantage point which we had to seize before the rumoured wave of BBQ-ing american astronomers, 100-strong, arrived. Final angles and views were selected for each camera and the wait began. Aside from the occasional loud anorak amateur everyone was quiet and introspective, calmly inspired by the remarkable view, passing time painting, chatting, eating, re-checking cameras again and so on. The sense of anticipation built as did the doubt that there even would be an eclipse. Surely darkness in the day could never happen.

Imperceptibly the landscape lost colour to become steely grey. Shadows became sharp and just past high-noon the celestial machinations revealed themselves. The moon began to blackly edge across the sun’s face. It really was happening again. The wind came up, clouds began to form with alarming speed and race towards us. It was a race between the moon and clouds. The moon our unwitting ally, the clouds our spiteful enemy, both intent on covering the sun. focussed. Finally all that was left was the thinnest crescent, the clouds had lost the race, the view was clear. The crescent broke into pinpricks of light and as everyone removed their solar glasses a great darkness engulfed us. The entire horizon, grey a second ago was lit up orange and yellow, a pale sunset all around, the distant snowcaps, gleaming pink. The sun, directly above was no longer an unwatchable glare but a deep gateway drawing one’s eyes to it but one’s soul through it. The silvery strands of the corona, delicate, intense and almost never seen dance around the edge of the jet-black disk. Clear hints of magenta signal solar prominences.

People are screaming, shouting. Someone shouts ‘Mars, Venus’ and sure enough two stars are visible. Light clouds and haze prevent any others being seen. The lighthouse has come on. People are hugging, many are crying. Its icy and the chill is primevally felt in the marrow with the loss of our live-giving sun. Thoughts of cameras and photography are gone. It is clear this is a moment that cannot be caught and can only be experienced.

brighten from the southwest, within a further few seconds the corona, prominences, stars and sunset disappear. As if nothing had happened the dayAfter what feels like 3 seconds, 3 minutes 40 seconds of other-worldly twilight begins to is bright again. People are stunned and silent. There is little conversation. Most sit on rocks, lovers holding each other. Then people begin to move around, automatically doing routine things like pack gear or food away. Quiet words are exchanged. People, humbled, can barely express themselves. ‘Wow’ is all a tear-stained woman can utter, again and again, low, filled with wonder. There is little thought to look at the receding moon still visible through solar glasses, as nonchalantly it moves on. And then even that is gone. Everything is packed and sedately we leave this enchanted place with it forever etched into our memories for a sight so unique and exquisite.

I picked the site for its height and amazing 310 degree view of the distant horizon hoping to finally catch a glimpse of the shadow wall but once again had no defined view of it though definitely a good sense of it. The clouds and horizon haze might’ve diffused this. Also it was not as dark as previous eclipses with only 2 stars visible though others were probably obscured by light cloud. Perhaps my 16mm bolex shooting at 64fps will show something as I had held it in the general direction and fired off as long a burst as the spring would give it. Actually what do I know? I saw SOMETHING like a darkness approaching us and definitely SOMETHING like a LIGHTNESS too. Just because they did not conform with what I imagined does not mean I did not see it. Haha what a fool, after all is it not true that an eclipse is everything one expects but nothing one imagined? And it can take time for the event to sink into the psyche and be fully absorbed.

Photographically I achieved some good shots – a decent series of partial-phase shots, a fabulous large one of totality, a full 360 panorama of the sunset horizon and an excellent study of the lighthouse before and during achieved with a remote timed camera. (see lighthouse eclipse shots). I have not developed the super8 or 16mm film yet so still hope for some good material from them but as the super8 ran out half-way and I heard ominous noises from inside the bolex I am not holding my breath. Also I messed up the exposure on a diamond ring shot by underexposing by about 10 stops! Ok I got a very interesting sliver of chromosphere from that and at least I have a diamond-ring photo from my Zambian trip. More importantly I was well-prepared enough to get all of this yet not worry about any of the failures during the moment. I spent at least 2 full minutes merely gazing and appreciating this magnificence. Perhaps that’s why this one impacted even more than previous ones.

Well perhaps it was also that I was in Turkey, a great country of my choosing. There were friends from Grand Cayman (Katie and Skezza), a Canadian Third Aider (Dominique), South Africa (David and Emma) plus numerous wonderful people acquired in Turkey over the last years many of whom made huge efforts to be there plus friends of theirs from England. I felt relieved that they all agreed the efforts were nothing compared to the reward of what they had witnessed. Now at least they understood my fascination with the phenomenon.

The most wonderful thing this eclipse helped me to do this time around was to enhance the ability to focus on the NOW, to be present in the moment and understand detail. For many days after I was subsumed by an understanding of existence in an instant. How I was able to enjoy a glance at something, a touch from someone, the beat of a bird’s wing, a breath of fresh air, a sip of excellent wine, a jump from a rock, the kiss of the sun, a note amongst many in a melody. Now I feel suffused with good and creative energy.

As the Chinese and Muslims live by the lunar calendar and the West live by a man-manipulated Roman-Greco-Julian construct I see no reason why I cannot live by an eclipse calendar. So now I am in E4 (that’s cos I’ve seen 4 total eclipses see...). A period that will last until E5 on 1 August 2008 – I know this nomenclature is used within other believe structures to indicate dimensional states (see but as I am making no attempt to start a cult I am happy to use it for myself. And as my fascination for an interest in TOTAL eclipses is even further enhanced I accept that my life may become ‘ruled’ by eclipse cycles. Their role has taken on the aspect of a pilgrimage for me and provide for excellent adventure and are few and far enough between that some level of normal life is possible. A friend described me as a man of the night – the 3-minute night, which I liked.

So now to the future...

1 August 2008, seems like a nice enough time , mid-summer to visit Siberia. Or perhaps China though more chances exist in the years ahead to see eclipses there... But there is also the northern reaches of Canada during which the Sun will rise in eclipse and THAT might also be well-worth viewing! mmm-hmmmm.

Between then and now there is much life to be lived and I wish to suck the marrow from the bones of it.

And I will continue to tread the path of a Modern Romantic Completionist (more on that later)

As it has been said that life is what happens to you while you are busy making plans, well then perhaps the more plans you make the more life is lived. Dunno but the planning starts now either way and I have never found that just planning really interfered with living, specially as no battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy. So make plans but keep them fun, loose, outrageous and lively.

I’ll be between London and Paris though mostly London until the end of September working as VFX producer/supervisor on a French film about Edith Piaf. I plan a brief Cannes film festival and anticipate going to Burning Man this year.

So that’s me then. Hope to see you around.

Clear Skies...


Once again I feel the need to stress that these phenomenon and effects can ONLY be achieved by viewing a TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE. Anything else, partial, lunar or annular even at 99.9% are not any good. They may be remarkable in themselves and I enjoy them too BUT they’re so far away in effect as not to even count.