Armchair Peregrinations

December 28, 1998

Yesterday dawned clear and cold, but it quickly warmed up as the day progressed. Such a welcome relief to see glorious sunshine after three days of deepest gray gloom and overcast. The mild day made me want to get out of the house, particularly since it was the last day of my Christmas vacation from work.

About 4 in the afternoon, after doing some shopping, I headed for the Battery along the Ashley River for a drive in the old historic district of Charleston. The winds were calm, and it was high tide, so the waters of the harbor lapped at the seawall just below the railings. Tourists were out in full force, walking along the waterfront, feeding seagulls, taking pictures. I sometimes wish I could be in their place briefly, seeing Charleston with the fresh eyes of newcomers or visitors. But still, I manage to always be surprised by new insights and details whenever I explore this old city. I never tire of it, actually, because it is such a beautiful place. The other day in one of the bookstores, I heard a family conversing in French, and I would have liked to have shown them the city. It's nice to think of Charleston as such a cosmopolitan place that attracts visitors from all over the world.

A little while later I was at Waterfront Park, camera at the ready. It was about 4:30 or quarter to 5 and the light was changing dramatically. I wanted to try to record this changeover to sunset, and I was not disappointed at the outset. I stood at the railing near the far end of the park where I had a commanding view out over the harbor. In the far distance was Fort Sumter. In the near distance was Castle Pinckney which formed a good foreground anchor for shots of the sky and clouds. It had been getting overcast all afternoon, a very changeable sky that didn't look too promising when I first took out my camera. My wide-angle lens would cover the expanse of sky and harbor. To my delight, the clouds began to open up and reform and change shape before my eyes. A three-quarter moon was high above the horizon, becoming visible as the clouds moved across the sky. It seemed as if there was a different sky with subtle changes in color and cloud formation each minute I looked up to observe and frame a scene of marshy foreground and sweeping sky. It was quite lovely, and I snapped about 12 pictures within 10 or 15 minutes. And then, getting toward 5, the lower horizon darkened with clouds and the diminished daylight became readily apparent. Suddenly, the sky no longer had that nice shade of blue amid the luminescent clouds. Scenes an impressionist painter would long for were gone. That is the ephermeral nature of the sky in late afternoon. I left with the anticipation that I had some very special pictures in my camera.

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