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Tonight’s Surprises

Making yourself open to unexpected magic and surprise is an important part of living the creative life of a daily artisan.

It can be more comfortable to surround yourself with structure, practicalities, and certainties, but when we’re able to let go – really let go – of things and people no longer serving us in the quest to live our highest and best life, the gifts that come our way are remarkable.

Some of these gifts can be what I call the big things in life. Others are small, yet they bring joy and a confidence there will be more such moments in the future.

I had one of these nights of surprises tonight with my camera in hand, and while the things that happened may seem inconsequential to some, to me it was one amazing, surprising moment after another – and a reminder in this new year to stay open for what’s to come my way.

Inauspicious Start

Today’s weather where I live in Florida was warm, but very cloudy and windy. I guess if you’re digging out from snow about now, that sounds pretty good, but by Florida standards, I’d say it wasn’t anything special.

I’ve been wanting to get out with my camera to capture some new sunsets, and tonight’s schedule worked fine. Problem was I didn’t expect to see much, given the less than spectacular day’s light. I was very close to talking myself out of chasing a sunset altogether, and waiting on a new, prettier day with more promise.

Good thing I didn’t listen to myself or I would have missed out on an awesome night!

Unfolding Before My Eyes

Loading up my camera and a spare lens, I headed off to water and a dock where I’ve shot some pretty sunsets in the past. It wasn’t that I was dreading it, but my optimism for a gorgeous sunset wasn’t very high. I didn’t know what to expect but I figured I’d show up and see what was up.

As soon as I got out of my vehicle, there was a bit of an enjoyable coolness to the breeze, and from there things started happening in surprising ways.

Airplanes, and Royal Blues

Having arrived about 20 minutes before the sunset time, I took a few test shots and wandered around the empty dock while waiting. The day’s earlier gray sky turned to blue, and soon after, big mounds of royal blue clouds began rolling in. A jet had flown through and left a pretty white trail in the sky, and as I stood there a second and a third jet came along and added to what was starting to look like a painting overhead.

The dropping sun … markedly uneventful earlier during the day … became a golden flame, with the sky’s multi-blues and whites as a dramatic complement.

Often with sunsets and skies, I like to position myself to shoot upwards so the sky overhead becomes dominant in the photograph – as significant, for example, as the actual setting sun from a straight-on perspective. It’s the way I look at these, so I want my camera to see them this way also.

Things were getting dramatic, and I kept shooting!

And From the Left Side

For the briefest moment, the sky got darker and the blues I’d been shooting were covered in darker clouds.

I still was taking photos when all of a sudden, from my left peripheral vision I saw a kayak carrying a man and woman gliding by, propelled by their feet pedaling over the water.

They silently entered center stage at the exactly perfect moment to become silhouetted against the darkening sky and golden sunset and its reflections on the water. I think I held my breath. I know from what I later saw in my camera that I kept on shooting without getting distracted over the surprise timing of their arrival.

It was a magical moment I could not have anticipated in the way it happened!

Blues Are Back, and Moon Shows Itself

Just as quickly as the blues had faded for my kayak silhouette opportunity, they returned and the jet trails of white smoke had broken up and become even more dramatic.

I just kept shooting picture after picture, and because as described earlier I like to shoot upwards, around this time I noticed a crescent moon.

Frankly, I’ve never shot a moon that as a photograph looked like much more than a white disk in the sky, but I took a few shots of it tonight, and then inexplicably zoomed in to the full 300mm extent of the camera lens for a handful of additional shots. I actually didn’t pay much attention to it but it was there, and I figured why not just shoot it and move on.

Painterly Skies

When I shifted my focus back to the deepening blues in the sky and the set sun’s reflection on the clouds, I was amazed to see what I can best describe as painterly skies. It was as if I was looking at an artist’s canvas, and the soft hues had been produced from paints on an experienced brush.

Thank goodness for digital cameras because I like to shoot a lot of images, and I remember long ago using a film camera with a finite number of shots before you had to change the film. Tonight would have had a big interruption for the quickly changing sky if I’d had to stop and put in new film.

The oranges and softening blues of the artist’s sky began to change to pinks and even lighter blues, and this next phase of color was equally gorgeous. Besides, I love pink and when I can shoot it in a sky, it’s exciting.

Earlier I never would have dreamed that pink and gold and orange and royal blue would play such starring roles, with my initial assumption that the transition to nightfall would be as lackluster as the skies had been during the daytime.

I shot it all to the conclusion, with my last photos showing literally the last vestiges of light as the blackness of night was setting in. When it was over, I headed home with anticipation over what I’d been able to capture – as well as a sense of excitement over how surprisingly spectacular the evening had been!

One Last Surprise (Shock!)

Everyone has a routine for looking at what comes out of the camera, and mine is first to download the images to my iPad so I can cull what’s worth saving and what’s not. When I got home, I placed the SD card into a card reader for the iPad, and photographs started downloading.

When they’d finished, I started going through them to see what I’d gotten, and I was struck by how close to not even going out with my camera I’d come earlier tonight.

As I looked at each photo, I marked the ones for further review, the ones for keeping, and the ones for deleting, so I got to spend a few seconds with each one. Imagine my surprise – when I came to the handful of random moon shots – to see what looked like detail on the images.

Surprise, no, shock! When I enlarged the iPad screen with my fingers, indeed there was detail of craters and shadows on the moon shots! It was almost as if I didn’t believe it at first, and I even wondered for a second if it could be some kind of aberration. However, the craters were on all the moon shots, and I was overjoyed!

The closest I’ve ever come to this was years ago when I shot pictures of the moon, and found one with a vaguely-softball-shaped shadow (if I squinted just right), and to be honest I never really knew if it was just a regular old shadow instead of anything related to the moon.

Now, to be clear and as you can see, these are not NASA-generated moon shots from a Hubble telescope or some other such fancy equipment. And, yes, maybe they would have been even more vivid if I’d been shooting with a tripod or actually shooting thinking I was going to get something, but they were random, point-your-camera-at-it-since-you’re-aiming-that-way-anyway photographs.

Still … it’s the moon … 238,855 miles away … and there are craters in the photographs … and even now writing this … I can’t believe it!

Of course I Googled to find out more about tonight’s moon — and WHY my camera, zoom lens regardless, had been able to grab what my naked eye had not seen. I learned that today – January 8, 2022 – is the Waxing Crescent Phase for the moon, and that it’s a great time to see features on the moon’s surface. (Check!). Also, that during this phase, the moon can be seen after the sun dips below the horizon at sunset. (Check, check!).

Staying Open to Surprises and Magic

Tonight with my camera was a great reminder – as I’m trying to be more intentional about staying open to surprises – that magic can come and bring with it special experiences we never would have dreamed would happen. I’m going to really work on this in 2022 and further develop the capacity to make myself open and get more comfortable with the unknowns.

And if I need an extra reminder of why it’s important, I’ll just take a look (without squinting) at my moon craters photograph from tonight!

What magical things have happened when you made yourself open to surprises? Please comment below!

January 7, 2022
January 9, 2022



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