By Jim Urquhart
“Jim Urquhart; lowering expectations since 1977″
That is something that kept popping in my head as I drove home from southern Utah after covering the annual eclipse for Reuters the day before. That, and also regretting not purchasing a bumper sticker from a small gas station in the town of Beaver, Utah.
It wasn’t that my pics were bad – several had run in some the most respected online photo galleries of the event – but I knew I didn’t hit a home run.
I had spent weeks planning how to cover the unique annular eclipse that was last visible over the United States in 1994. I researched time tables, discussion boards on how to shoot the eclipse, talked with other photojournalists on how they planned to cover it to make certain I was in the right place for the eclipse. I spent hours working with neutral density and solar filter combinations. I even researched the meaning of Johnny Cash’s 1963 hit “Burning Ring of Fire.” Some say the song is about “transformative love.” After covering the eclipse I subscribe to the belief it has more to do with the transformation of one’s bowels after too many habaneros and tequila than it does with love.
Myself and our reporter ventured to the small town of Kanarraville, Utah. NASA scientists had deemed it the world’s “sweet spot” to view the eclipse. I heard many people (over and over again) say they expected 5,000 to 15,000 people to venture to the town of about 300 for the event. I was dead certain this was the right place to watch the eclipse and also make images of the crush of on-lookers.
When I had arrived there early on Sunday at about 10 in the morning to secure my shooting position a whole ten hours earlier than the event, I was one of the first there. I felt good about this but as the day went on I began to really question my choice. Yes, I would have a great view of the eclipse, but I wouldn’t have a distinct landmark in front of the eclipse to really show where I was.