Camera-less Travel Moments

I saw the total solar eclipse, a London cathedral and autumn in a park.

By Anna Krejci

Some of the most tranquil places and ambiances can be found in the diminishing light.  The total solar eclipse I saw in April darkened my street.  A cathedral in London, England stood half in the shadows of dusk on one Christmas Eve when I visited.  And the late-afternoon sun cut through autumn trees to reach the forest floor in a park close to home. I am lucky to have seen amazing sights and felt my wondrous surroundings – and to have seen them in the scant light left from day. In most cases, such light was too dim for my camera to capture the moments in the ways I saw them. A picture shows things to an extent. In those cases where I ventured with little light, writing words to document the sights became well worth the effort.

Total Solar Eclipse

I was fortunate to be in the Cleveland area during the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse.  Cleveland was in the path of totality.  I did not attempt to photograph the total solar eclipse. First, I did not have sophisticated camera equipment and second, the photos I saw of it in media afterward did not compare to the beautiful moment of totality seen with my eyes.  Like everyone, I wore protective glasses for viewing the sun as the moon was in stages of covering its view.  The moment I was in the shadow of the moon and totality had been made – when the sun was completely blocked by the moon – I looked up with plain eyes. In the cool shadow of the moon, I stood.  My surroundings were dark, except for the orange-pinkish light on the horizon. The moon’s surface, I saw, showed depth.  The moon was the most beautiful, silver-gray disk illuminated from behind. A stunningly pure white light escaped from its edges.  I imagined where I was in relation to the moon and the sun.  I imagined the view of Earth from space, and I imagined where I would be, standing in the shadow.  Because of modern communication and scientific knowledge, I knew this moment was going to last for three minutes.  My time for looking at the moon with my naked eyes was limited. The sunlight would return and pose harm to my vision if I continued to gaze upward. I do not regret letting my camera down, and in moments like these, I most celebrate the written word as a tool for sharing and remembering.

Cathedral in London

Witnessing a total solar eclipse was a rare event.  So, too, when I waited at dusk Christmas Eve about 20 years ago to worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, I knew it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.  Like during the eclipse, a camera would only help me so much there.  The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London sat above most other buildings. It caught the rays of the setting sun. It was more luminous than any other part of the cathedral. The cathedral walls darkened. With my camera, I attempted to capture those dark forms against the cold, light blue sky filled with streaky and gold-tinted clouds, but realizing the photos taken in that light would not develop well, I just stepped back and looked at the sight. I still remember being in that space and time and looking skyward beyond the cathedral's exterior walls.  That London church welcomed me – a thankful visitor from the United States – on Christmas Eve.  I think there was not room inside for everyone who wanted to be there. My goodness, how fortunate I was.

Autumn in a Park

Home now in Ohio, I have access to the state’s natural beauty. It’s just that the sights are revealed on nature’s terms, not my own. Autumn in Ohio is lovely.  One late afternoon I walked in one of the Cleveland Metroparks, and I saw a picture-perfect moment when I came upon a stream absorbing the sunlight from a low angle and in a golden hue. On that fall day, there were ample shades of brown and bronze.  It was the most appealing collection of muted colors I’ve seen.  The clear, shallow water of the stream ran over bedrock.  I could see ripples in the current and the uneven edges of the stream’s rocky bottom.  On the banks of the stream, there was a leafy carpet so heavy that the underlying soil was hidden.  The leaves had spilled over into the stream where they landed in sunlight.  This was in late fall after most of the leaves had already descended.  Trees stood mostly bare. This view represented the lingering glory of the season, even after most people would have said the trees were past their peak colors. I still remember the remarkable view. For this last example, I had taken a photo of it, but I made myself stay in the place to see the full forest scape with my plain vision.  It almost felt like I was a part of the scenery, rather than apart from it, like when I had used my camera as an intermediary between myself and nature.

I could not help but share this photo of the fall in the park.  It turned out well, and I give in to the temptation to use my camera sometimes.

For me, even though I enjoy photography, it can be freeing to set aside my camera.  I hope to have more experiences like these.  I wish for more memories made through lived experiences.