When Sankar told me on Friday evening that they were planning to shoot the lunar eclipse at San Francisco at 4 in the morning, the very first idea that struck me was "Why the hell is he inviting me?" but I gave him an impromptu response "Yeah sure, I'll join you guys". I'll tell you what it means - Waking up at 2:30AM, driving for an hour to reach San Francisco (though he drove this time) with the risk of whole city being clad with dense fog, standing somewhere along the bay in the dark exposing yourself completely to the freezing winds of the Pacific, exchanging views on how to shoot and finally shooting the eclipse. When I substitute the previous sentence with "sleeping warm in the hotel and waking up to a sunny morning with hot breakfast", it was real tough for me to go for the former option though I was at the verge of choosing the latter.
The beauty of going with seasoned landscape photographers is their preparation. They knew the fog forecast, they knew where the spectacle was gonna take place with respect to Golden Gate, they knew where to mount their tripods and cover the spectacle from and they had precise idea as to how their shots should look. Precisely at 4AM, we were at the parking of Crissy Field Center. We reached the bay front without much difficulty and we initially felt the weather wasn't that bad either. After a bit of scouting, we settled down at the beach front and mounted our cameras on tripods and waited till 4:45AM, the time when the eclipse was to start.
Compared to the other photographers with whom I went (Sankar, Raja and Anand) my gear was the most primitive and most basic. I shot with my good old 20D with 17-40/4L and 70-200/4L mounted on my Manfrotto tripod. I didn't have remote release and I was running low on battery to use self-timer. I then decided, if I don't have good photos...WTF...I'm witnessing one of the rarer nature's phenomenon with Golden Gate in the foreground. Finally the eclipse set in at 4:45AM and I started shooting, I felt a bit disappointed. 70-200 was a bit too short to shoot such an event and 17-40 blew out the eclipse completely. It was a tricky affair to capture the penumbra initially - try to get the penumbra the moon surface would wash out; try to get the details on the moon would result in no penumbra. Add to the disappointment is the biting cold winds which made my fingers ache despite the gloves. Things started looking slightly better in terms of photography after 6AM when the twilight of the dawn made the rosy moon look beautiful. The sunrise also painted beautiful clouds in the east.
By the end of it, I was wholeheartedly grateful for Sankar for inviting and glad about me that I pushed myself out of the bed in the cold to make it to the event. I haven't got any great shots as such, but it was an amazing experience to witness such a spectacle at one of my favourite landmarks, Golden Gate.
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