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Agua Luna – Series I

By Raymond Steiner

Agua Luna is a series of photographs taken on February 16th, 1980 on a beach in Karwar, Karnataka, India just before, during and after the ‘totality’ stage of a total solar eclipse that occurred on that day.

The shifting colour palette in each photograph is due to a phenomenon known as shadow bands (also known as flying shadows). These moving ‘ripples’ of light only occur for a few moments prior and after totality and are sometimes very difficult to observe.

In 1842 George B. Airy, the English astronomer royal, saw his first total eclipse of the sun. He recalled shadow bands as one of the highlights:

“As the totality approached, a strange fluctuation of light was seen upon the walls and the ground, so striking that in some places children ran after it and tried to catch it with their hands.”

And to quote J.C. Bhattacharyya from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, India:

“Every eclipse observer carries in his mind the experience of living through a dream. In the last few moments prior to totality the light faded rapidly, bands of shadow moved all around and stars appeared in the sky. The eclipsed sun changed appearance from a thin crescent to a string of bright points like a diamond necklace then the pink chromosphere flashed out and totality began. For a few minutes, the bright halo surrounding the eclipsed sun became the most glorious object in the star studded midday sky. The entire sequence of events was so unusual that it left a deep lasting impression on all viewers minds.”

The photographs of this rare lustrous light are impressions left on 35mm Ektachrome emulsion via a 105mm Nikkor lens on a Nikon F2 SLR.

All photographs ©1980 Raymond Steiner.