It was a typical evening on Maui: I’m out on a lava outcropping, timing the waves and watching the sun as it descends towards the horizon. Simultaneously, I’m shooting, checking the histogram, tuning in subtle exposure changes and making slight composure variations.
Suddenly, there’s an unfamiliar “clunk” within the camera, and my one-second exposure is suddenly in the 30-second range. With the light getting better and better with each passing second, I quickly pull the camera off the tripod and pull the lens.
There, lying askew within the camera, is the mirror. I try to put it back in place, but it’s separated from the mechanism and my Canon 5D is now a paperweight.
After reciting the George Carlin Nasty Seven, I tried to think of a way to salvage the situation. I’m too far from the studio to grab another body, I have the Canon G10, but the card if full from shooting underwater earlier in the day. There’s the camera on my phone, but without any aperture adjustment in the lens, I can’t control the light the way I want. What the heck am I gonna do?
It’s simple: enjoy the moment.
I pulled a bottle of water out of my pack and found a nice scoop in the lava to serve as a seat. And for the first time in I-don’t-know-when, I watch the sunset. There’s no shutter release in my hand, I’m not counting waves, and I’m not checking exposure values. All the gear is tucked away in the pack, and there’s no salt spray to continually wipe from the lens.
The sun dips low towards the blue Pacific, and the sky fills with incredible gradients of yellow and orange, while the bottoms of the clouds start turning an incredible peach color with reddish edges. I’m awestruck by the beauty, an incredible ever-changing palette of colors, waves crashing and water swirling against lava formations. Black crabs scramble from rock to rock and mynah birds squawk as they fly by.
Normally, I watch sunsets as snippets in time, frame by frame. This was one of the rare moments to really watch a sunset, to be immersed in the beauty and tranquility. While I may not have captured the scene on a memory card, it’s burned into my memory. Not a sunset lost, but a moment enjoyed. I should probably do this more often.