Friday, March 20, 2015

Eclipsed by Shetland

Over the winter, I've wandered Northmavine with my camera set to Doom-Laden-Black-and-White-Artiness, snapping pictures of this, that and the other. But mostly the sky.
Elcipse, 20 March 2015

Sometimes it seems that Shetland is all sky. The low humps of the landscape, the lack of trees, the scattered humans and their occasional, crouching habitations...add some of the most extreme weather in Europe and you can find yourself unconsciously bent and cowering beneath the firmament.

I've known visitors who left swearing never to return, intimidated by what they saw as the massive, glowering threat above them, the sense of their own insignificance.

But our skies move and change, season by season, moment by moment. From the Northern Lights' strange flickering towers of night-time colour to the boiling, scudding clouds of day, the sharp beams of stark sunshine, highlighting the glint or thrashing power of the sea. I love it, winter and summer, viciously cold and blisteringly, briefly hot.
Eclipse skyscape,The Clave, Hillswick Ness

Anyway, today was to be the solar eclipse, and Shetland was promised 98 per cent of the sun obscured. Not that an obscured sun is that unusual hereabouts. Still, the moon had to do what the moon had to do, and so I prepared a flask of coffee and climbed the Clave, the highest point of the Hillswick Ness. I changed the camera's setting to Rock-Star-Rayban-Facing-Flashgun mode and waited.  Proper coffee, Vietnamese full roast from The Longship in Orkney. It was cold and gusty, but the sky...the sky was in full, playful try-and-keep-up mood.

I'd woken to stillness, thick sea mist and low cloud. By the time the moon was ready to do its thing, there were patches of blue sky and a scudding north-westerly wind moving things along briskly. Add the occasional squally cloud and rainstorm, and...

I sat on the overgrown concrete base of an old wartime radio mast, drank Java and marvelled as the sun blinked, the eclipse showed itself coyly among the clouds, and Northmavine, Shetland and its ever-altering skies remained as miraculously beautiful as ever.

Nothing can eclipse that.

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