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Wrinkle Tribute

(December Solstice - 0608 UT, 22 December 2007 +/- 12 h)

Yoshito Takagi

An Inconvenient Truth?

Pat Swovelin †

On the Road to Eugene, Oregon

Patterson, California, USA

December 21, 2007, 10:08 pm (exactly!) (12-22-07, 06:08 GMT)

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© 2007 Pat Swovelin, All Rights Reserved.

The WWP management team is out to get me.


For the past 4 WWP events (The Best of 2006 isn't an event per se so it doesn't count) I've been on the road. Somehow no matter when the event was scheduled I wound up being on the road far from home and unable to plan a shoot or shoot what I'd planned so I was forced to make the most of what was available wherever I was. That's always a good thing because it forces you to think on your feet and overcome whatever obstacles are in your way to a successful shoot. But I digress, this time it's going to be different. It's a one-day event. A mere 24 hours. And, more to the point, if you really think about it it's technically only a 1 minute event. 1 tiny little minute. 60 fleeting seconds. If our lives are less than a blink in time then 60 seconds doesn't even register in the grand scheme of things. It's a mere insignificant nothing.

How could they possibly catch me with that small of a slice in all of time? I mean I would've bet the farm on that ...

... and lost.

Big time.

This time we're going to be on the road to Eugene, Oregon, to watch our daughter perform in The Nutcracker with her ballet company (Ballet Idaho/Eugene Ballet) then on out to the coast (another 2 and a half hours in the driving rain, through the mountains, at night of course) to visit with the boss's mom and sister. It's a 13-hour drive and after a lot of jacking around (you know what it's like, we're off! ... then the brakes come on and we stop at the ATM to get cash, stop to get gas, stop at the store and get munchies and drinks for the road, stop and eat because we won't do it later). An hour and a half goes by and we finally get on the road at 6:00 pm. Aarrrgh! I'm doomed.

Now the problem is I can't think on my feet because I'm sitting in the driver's seat so I'll have to think with my ... well I'm sitting on it but you probably get what I mean.

We're traveling up the I5 Freeway (the Interstate 5 Freeway goes from Mexico to Canada, if you drive past the borders it goes to the North Slope of Alaska or Tierra del Fuego if you go south) through central California's San Joaquin Valley.

It's long.

It's straight.

It's boring.

There's nothing to look forward to except the next offramp coming up in 10 miles or so.

Every several offramps there's a cluster of gas stations and fast-food joints.

Then even more long, straight, boring road until the next cluster of buildings designed to suck the cash out of your wallet.

And that's in the daytime. At night it's even worse because it's dark too.

Well there's no way that I'll be able to stop at one of those clusters and wait until the appointed moment when the solstice arrives without getting my head handed to me. So what to shoot? What can I shoot? There's nothing ahead of me but blackness for several hundred miles.


Then I come up with the only possible plan, if a cluster of what some laughingly call "civilization" shows up I can stop and shoot my Wrinkle in Time Tribute entry, if not I'll stop on the side of the freeway (totally illegal if it's not an emergency but what the hey, it's a WWP event, I'm sure the Judge will understand [he said with false self-confidence]), stand in front of the car and use the headlights to illuminate me as the grand moment arrives.

Some plan but it's all I've got going for me in all of this unending blackness.

Clearly thinking with your ... could produce better results but only in an alternate Universe (you know, the one where Superman is the bad guy).

Time marches on.

Offramps come and offramps go and occasionally a cluster of the free market economy goes by. Other than that it's blackness. All consuming blackness.

I can feel the solstice rushing at the right side of my head at 1,042 MPH but there's nothing ahead of me but blackness so it looks like it's going to be Plan B and I'll be stopping in the cold darkness (it's really cold outside the car but nothing like what you have where there's all of that white stuff on the ground, what is that white stuff anyway?) by the side of the freeway hoping I can shoot without having the monster wall of air from a passing semi-truck and trailer blow the tripod over and kill my camera/lens/head or having some really cranky California Highway Patrol Officer show up and give me a ticket for being so unbrilliant (knowing my luck it'd be exactly AT the solstice).

But wait. What's that up ahead? It's the soft glow of civilization and a place to shoot. Now we all know that distances at night appear a lot closer than they really are so lets get going (it's almost showtime!) and I put the hammer down. Hey! Where did all of this traffic suddenly come from? Who are all of these people on MY racetrack? I'm suddenly in a cluster of traffic that I have to wend my way through—faster, people, go faster, don't you know who I am?—as the clock is furiously ticking towards 10:08 pm (the local solstice time for the West Coast of the U.S.).

The glow is getting closer.

The solstice is getting closer.

It's here! (the offramp, not the solstice)

I race off of the freeway and barrel down the offramp and into the 1st lit area I find, managing to stop the car without crashing into anything or skidding to a stop (and getting an earful in the process). I jump out of the car and build the camera. Fortunately I use a Nodal Ninja 5 and keep it assembled in my bag, so 30 seconds after deciding on a shot and getting the sticks set up I have the head mounted, the camera on the quick release and am ready to go.

"Preston, get out of the car and stand over here."

"Don't put on your coat, the blue skin and goose pimples will look good in the shot. (Note to self: we're supposed to suffer for our art or some such nonsense.)"

"Hold this."

"Push it forward into the lens."


"Hold still it's a slow shutter speed."

Take a quick test shot to see if the exposure is OK.

It's good.

The alarm on my cell phone and watch go off at almost the same moment.

The solstice is here! Shoot! Shoot!

I switch into self-timer mode, press the shutter, leap back over by Preston and hold the other side of the insert slate.

Have you ever noticed that 10 seconds go by agonizingly slowly when you're in a hurry (something like the last few seconds before Summer vacation when you're in the 5th grade and want to leave NOW)?

The shutter fires.

Do it again just in case.

"Preston, this time smile and point a the slate."

We smile. We point.

The shutter fires again.

"Preston, don't move until I'm finished."

He can't move because he's frozen solid (it'll look great in the pano).

I jump back behind the camera, come out of self-timer mode and shoot 2 more frames, then go back into self-timer mode for the 4th frame in case my elbow had busted out the 1st frame.

The shutter fires again and it's over.

The solstice has passed and I've either captured it or totally blown it because thinking with my ... didn't work too well. I'm betting on the former not the latter (no pun intended).

Break down everything (including Preston), pile it (and him) back in the car and head north again (looking back for the sign on the other side of the freeway with the name of where we'd just stopped so I could get the coordinates and elevation later) for what turns out to be another 10 hours on the road (Fun? Not!). We were stopped for only 17 minutes and had participated in a global event with hundreds of people doing the exact same thing at exactly the same time.

How cool is that?

Lessons learned:
1) Never bet against the WWP team.
2) Never plan a shoot and expect to be able to shoot what you planned.
3) Always be able to think on your feet or with your ... well you know.
4) Always use a head that you can mount quickly with a quick release on it so you can shoot RIGHT NOW! when the need arises.
5) Always drive for however long it takes, no matter how far it is, to watch your daughter dance ballet professionally (it's one of life's magic moments).
6) Start planning for the next WWP event just in case I really do get to shoot it.
7) Don't bet on #6 happening.
8) Thank the WWP team for all of their hard work in making this and the other events possible and giving us a place where we can all play (it's a great sandbox they've created).

Thanks guys!


USA-Canada / USA-California

Lat: 37° 27' 55.2" N
Long: 121° 10' 31.5" W

Elevation: 192 feet

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: High. Pinpoints the exact spot.

Canon Digital Rebel (300D), Peleng 8mm lens, Nodal Ninja 5 BETA panohead, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod, ISO 400, f5.6, 1/8 second exposure, Canon RAW, Photoshop CS, PTGui Pro 7.4, Pano2VR 2.0 beta 3, NBNC, PDL

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