High TideBy Mitsuharu Kume
The Inevitable Chance of Being
The silence is broken by the sound of the shutter, reminding me why I love taking photos, especially in natural light. Sun rays splash across the waves and moonbeams illuminate the ocean. A total solar eclipse is a big event in my world, and the recent eclipse had me thinking of what and where to shoot, right up until the actual day.
I decided to leave the super-telephoto lens shots of the sun disappearing and the diamond ring of light in the sky to the star gazing professionals and focus on my field of expertise, the ocean. How would the sea turtles, my fascination at the moment, react to the eclipse? Would fish act differently? It was important for me to take it all in as my mind raced through the possibilities on the night prior to the eclipse. I also made time to prepare my camera with low-light film and a waterproof housing.
I awoke the next day, stuffed my gear into the car and headed for a beach where I planned to shoot. Unfortunately, windshield wipers were required, as a light rain had begun to fall. It was just one hour before the eclipse, and I strapped on two cameras and began swimming about looking for the sea turtles.
My home island, Tanegashima, is often said to be Japan’s “closest island to space,” since the launching pad for satellites and rockets is easily within view. On this day, as if knowing of the impending eclipse, the schools of colorful tropical fish were moving about wildly. As the time of the eclipse drew near, I was still unable to come upon any sea turtles.
The sun began to slowly disappear even as it sat above some thick clouds. The solitude of the sea was enhanced by the impending darkness. As if to signal change of light, the red launch pad lights began to flicker, even though it was daytime.
Through the clouds appeared the sun’s version of a crescent moon and, without warning, the fish all disappeared. Did they go to sleep? I checked my watch to ensure I was on point for the moment of the full eclipse and dove as deep as I could. The darkness above was deeper than that of the moon at night. I raised my lens, took some underwater shots of the blue light above and slowly surfaced. The scene was enwrapped in an odd cloak of darkness.
The moon and the sun may overlap each other by chance, but there is a certain inevitability to the two celestial bodies intersecting. The same is true in photography. You must make the effort to be there to snap the photo, but sometimes the outcome is based on pure chance. This was the case on this day.
When I processed the film from the eclipse, this picture came into being. I can only think of one explanation. Often when I change from color to black-and-white film, I wind about five frames worth into the canister and save the film for another day. Perhaps this shot accidentally came about when I loaded one of those previously used rolls.
I didn’t actively pursue this shot, but it is good example of “high tide,” things going my way, or waiting for the “inevitable chance of being.” A phrase I learned from this single frame of film.