“Today the sun disappeared behind the moon, after being chased for over an hour, and for roughly 50 seconds the sky went dark.”
EXMOUTH - APRIL 20th 2023
It’s 8 am and the sun is shining over the small shire of Exmouth. Lately, I have been calling this small town on the Australian West Coast home. The explosion of life and colors of the waters that surround the peninsula attracts many people, especially during the winter season. If on a normal day Exmouth counts about 2,5 thousand residents, during high season it can skyrocket up to 10 thousand. But today the quiet of this small community is shaken by an invasion of at least twice as many visitors. Today Exmouth has been invaded by more than 25k visitors, and some have traveled from many corners of the world to be at the right place at the right moment. There is a sort of electricity in the air, you can see it in the eyes and smiles of everyone. They are coming from all over the world to see what, according to many, is one of those things you must see at least once in your life.
It’s 9 am when we hit the road. The sun is shining over the small shire of Exmouth, but it won’t be shining all day long today.
IMAGE LEFT: Northern lights in Iceland.
© Federico Facchin – 2019
IMAGE RIGHT: Northern lights in Norway.
© Federico Facchin – 2022
Together with my flatmates, we have decided to leave the crowd behind and head west into the National Park, in the hope of finding a quiet place. Given the circumstances, to preserve the natural environment there are restrictions on how many people can access the park today. We need a special resident’s pass, and after a couple of checkpoints, we are finally driving south, in the direction of Pilgramunna Canyon. It’s 11 o’clock. While walking from the main road to the canyon we keep an eye on the sky. Obviously, we are biased, because nothing has changed yet, but in my mind I can feel it is getting darker. In the canyon we find a friendly group of photographers, geared up with tripods and big cameras, and a slightly less friendly group of wallabies. They don’t mind our presence, but they keep a distance just in case.
IMAGE ABOVE: Wallaby.
© Federico Facchin – 2023
Who hasn’t done that at least a thousand times? Who didn’t get tangled in the unanswered questions that troubles humanity since its dawn: ”What are we? Where are we really? What is it out there?”.
If you get to travel far from big cities, out in the countryside where little light and air pollution filter the faint light coming from the stars you can have a live view through the little window of the Universe that we can see. And once there, laying on the grass, you dwell over the fact that those little dots of lights hanging from the sky might have been traveling for hundreds of millions of years before reaching us.
“Where are they, where are we?”.
IMAGE ABOVE: Summer Solstice at the Arctic Henge, Northern Iceland.
© Federico Facchin – 2020
11:20. It’s about time for me to set up the tripod as well. Something is happening, you can see it. Earlier in the morning I set up the camera and rehearsed the shooting a few times. It is not the first time that I tried to photograph the sky, but today I need completely new camera settings for a completely new photo hunt.
At 11:25 it’s getting darker and darker. Despite that, I would still need strong filters in front of my lens to protect the sensor from the bright sun rays. While waiting for the right moment to point the camera in the right direction, I am looking at the sky with the special glasses. Everything in the sky is pitch black, except for a thinner and thinner slice of the sun. Oddly enough, it looks like a growing moon at night.
11:26. Only a small sliver of the sun is still visible. The little portion of the photosphere left is still extremely bright, more than enough to burn any camera sensor and, most important, the retina of your eyes. But at 11:27 the last bit of the sun disappears completely behind the moon, and the day falls into night. Quickly I remove the cap from the lens, and I start shooting, bracketing my shots to maximize the chances of a correct exposition.
IMAGE ABOVE: The sun is hiding behind the moon.
© Federico Facchin – 2023
And it’s while I am looking at the display of my camera that I realize how dark and quiet it is all around me. I slowly turn my head to look up at the sky, and I just can not believe my eyes.
My jaw drops. A feeling of cold runs through my back but I am not sure if it is a mind trick or if it is actually getting colder. The sky is dark, and a massive ring of fire is the only thing lighting the empyrean, relieving the day from the weight of being itself, allowing the night to wrap the world that surrounds us. You can see the sun rays spreading and irradiating the solar system and you can see a planet behind, receiving the energy from our star. You feel like you can see the whole universe, and suddenly you realize your place in all this. We are surfing the infinite emptiness on a small little blue dot.
“No problem amigo!”
Today the sun has disappeared behind the moon, after being chased for over an hour, and for roughly 50 seconds the sky went dark. You can see a glare far on the horizon, where the moon’s shadow projected on Earth is not darkening the land enough. But here we have a total eclipse.
“I wasn’t really that fussed on the eclipse and didn’t get all the hype around it or why people would spend so much money travelling across the world to come and see it. If fede hadn’t mentioned he wanted to see it I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Full totality was probably one of the coolest things I live ever seen though, when everything went dark and I took my eclipse glasses off and looked to the sun it was just wow, I had goosebumps. My mind has been changed and I definitely get the hype around total eclipses now and I’m grateful I was lucky enough to be living in Exmouth for this one”
11:28. Roughly 50 seconds later the sun’s rays start peeking from the other side, in a sort of second sunrise. One last shot before I must cover the camera to protect my equipment again.
On the way back home the mood in the car is drastically different. We are not speaking, probably everyone in his mind is trying to realize what we just witnessed. Up until half an hour earlier, we were all like:” Ye naah, we are here already but I wouldn’t travel half the world for an eclipse!” “Yea mate, fair dinkum”. But now we have changed our minds, everyone living in town has.
Often I get asked: “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in the world?”. Now I think I have the answer, and I realize no photo, no video, no article can describe it properly and do justice to it.
April 20th 2023
IMAGE ABOVE: “Dark Sky”.
© Federico Facchin – 2023
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