The Eclipse of October 14, 2023: The Sun Dies and is Reborn Again

In Navajo belief, the eclipse of the Sun is thought of as the Sun dying and being reborn again. For us, it was as if all of our fatigue and exhaustion went away at the moment of annularity. 

The journey started with 48 sleepless hours, a delayed flight, two hours wait at the car rental and a six-hour drive waiting ahead of us to an amazing destination, the Monument Valley, Utah.   We made an amazing plan of reaching the destination the night before the eclipse, only to find out that others have planned more wisely to reach their destination at least 2 days before the event. So, as you can imagine, we had hardly any time to do any location scouting. And over that, all these delays in our itinerary, totally confirmed that fact.

In the previous eclipse trip back in 2017, I joined with Chirag, Gowri from AAA, but this time, my wife, Sudakshina who is a new member of AAA and I travelled together. A month before, when we booked our stay at The View Hotel, inside the valley, we were very excited to think that we will be able to watch and take photos of the eclipse with the buttes and monuments, but just a few days before our trip, we came to know this fact that Navajo Nation decided to keep the Navajo tribal park closed  to visitors during the entire time of the eclipse to follow their belief. All of our enthusiasm and excitement froze for a while, thinking how we would take any picture if there were no interesting landscapes! The only way to convince ourselves was to trust our guts that murmured “there will be some alternative”.

So, after a scheduled 5-hour drive which extended to six hours, with two stops, when we reached the beautiful Monument Valley, around 10pm on October 13, it was serene dark and both of us were super tired and hungry.  There was no time to search for alternative spots. The only time left was a couple of hours.   We had little time to rest before we had to start preparing to shoot the eclipse.  We stayed at the View Hotel which is right in front of the three famous monuments and within the Navajo Tribal Park. The hotel has an unobstructed view of the entire valley, but we got a room which faced the parking lot. (What luck!)

This was Sudakshina’s first time to observe and seriously capture a celestial event.  Without any concrete planning of the location, we both were very confused. After a long search on the internet, which Sudakshina mentioned in her story, we found a place on the main highway which is going to Utah.  After two hours of rest, we went to the location before sunrise. It was good to see that there was another car parked there.   We found that they were there for the eclipse. We were relieved to think that we did not pick the wrong location, and as the morning twilight started, it got clearer. It was chilly, and my wife and I both helped each other to set up our equipment. We had three cameras, two with wide angle lenses and one with a telephoto that Sudakshina took her pictures on.

I was in charge of the two wide angle views where I planned to capture the entire eclipse with the foreground desert landscape. I took a couple of pictures of the landscape with the silhouette, and fortunately, got one with a sunburst. I was happy with the foreground shot and was getting prepared for the eclipse to start. Then an amazing thing happened: I tipped over the tripods which were near to each other, messed up with the frame and it happened just 5 mins before the start. Sudakshina stepped in for rescue, taking a camera back screen image of the foreground shot and helped me to reset the frame. Without that, the pictures I shared would have been impossible.

And when the eclipse started, we got immersed in the beauty of nature and enjoyed the playfulness of the Sun and the Moon. This was the first time we experienced watching the “Ring of Fire”. We were spellbound…!  Sudakshina captured every beautiful moment of the eclipse in a close-up.  What I tried is a photo composite of the entire eclipse.

Annular solar eclipse composite at Monument Valley, UT.

The foreground picture is taken just right after the sunrise. The diffraction of the sunlight at wall of the Sentinel Mesa created a sunburst as the Sun started to rise above the horizon. I kept this as a foreground image because it gives an idea where the Sun started its day on that day. The annularity was captured in the clean blue sky in the middle of the beautiful Monument Valley and its monuments and mesas. It was a beautiful time enjoying the eclipse in the serene company of my wife Sudakshina Chakrabarty and other eclipse enthusiasts. A large part behind planning the foreground image goes to my wife!

It was an amazing experience to observe the Ring of Fire at the maximum annularity at the serene landscape of the Monument Valley, UT. The Ring of Fire is shown in this image, in the middle of the sequence. Equipment used: Sony A7SII, 17-24mm lens.