Monday, May 21, 2012

Notes From The Eclipse


Lens flare like mad, but see the little circles on the back of the statue Christopher Columbus that is on the top of Telegraph Hill? That's the eclipse (and that would be the Golden Gate toward the bottom of the frame).

All week the question has been, "Where to go?" Decided to head for the Coit Tower. Fascinated by the history behind the place; first by Lillie Hitchcok Coit, who left a third of her fortune to SF to "to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved." Lillie sounded like she was pretty damn cool for her time:

Coit Tower was paid for with money left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy socialite who loved to chase fires in the early days of the city's history. The tower took five years to construct. Before December 1866, there was no city fire department, and fires in the city, which broke out regularly in the wooden buildings, were extinguished by several volunteer fire companies. Lillie Coit was one of the more eccentric characters in the history of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Coit was reputed to have shaved her head so her wigs would fit better.

Lillie's fortunes funded the monument four years following her death in 1929. She had a special relationship with the city's firefighters. At the age of fifteen she witnessed the Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5 in response to a fire call up on Telegraph Hill when they were shorthanded, and threw her school books to the ground and pitched in to help, calling out to other bystanders to help get the engine up the hill to the fire, to get the first water onto the blaze. After that Lillie became the Engine Co. mascot and could barely be constrained by her parents from jumping into action at the sound of every fire bell. After this she was frequently riding with the Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, especially so in street parades and celebrations in which the Engine Co. participated. Through her youth and adulthood Lillie was recognized as an honorary firefighter.

The tower itself was built during the Depression, and contains some very progressive elements in the form of WPA murals, so much so that Bill O'Reilly suggested that Al Qaeda should make it a target. Between that, and the rest of the history, well, I'm there. You know that's where I had to go for any good magic that an eclipse might bring. Here's the tower near the peak:


Note the shadows, and how they are circular as they project the eclipse in progress. This shot from the small park behind the tower shows that phenomena a little better...


I was very lucky to get anything at all. My camera has been giving me grief the past couple of days; batteries going bad and not holding a charge. Usually I can pop out the carriage from the grip, pop it back in, and get more juice out of them. That wasn't working very well (or at all for a while) so I didn't get much - but managed to squeeze out a few.

Very pretty. Great views from the hill. There were families doing the pinhole trick, and other photogs set up (with filters and such) for shots. The light dimmed, and the city became more defined somehow. Maybe with the sun partially blocked the haze wasn't reflected back as it usually does. Got very windy and very chilly, until finally it passed, and the sun came back out again for the walk back to the train.

Great way to end an excellent weekend.