REMEMBERING OUR SON AND BROTHER WHILE VIEWING ECLIPSES
My family is interested in the heavens on more than one level, and as we’ve grown, so has our fascination with what’s happening far above us. Personally, I was drawn to the sky and the maps that makers drew when I was still in grade school. I’ve always been captivated by the precision and predictability of the skies. It’s impossible not to be swept away in the beauty of the heavens that some photographers manage to capture through their lenses, each photo an illustration of the details in the designer’s plans. I frequently bring my family along on stargazing adventures, and it’s been great to see how my wife and children have taken to an interest I’ve had since I was a child. In January, one of my daughters and I braved the cold to capture photos of the eclipse. On that January night, I was running through the near-zero temperatures to adjust the camera settings and make it back inside before I got too cold. But capturing the red hue of the sun’s rising and setting as projected onto the moon was too good of an opportunity to pass up just because of gusty winds and arctic temperatures. I’ve been shooting photos of the sky for a couple decades, and as a craftsman, you can imagine the pleasure I get from using a complicated tool to create a magnificent piece. We snapped photos of the eclipse with a Nikon D700 using an 18—135 zoom lens, securing the camera on a tripod. I explained to my daughter why I used these specific settings and what I was hoping to capture.
I’m happy to share this passion with my children, but through the years, the heavens’ beauty has come to mean so much more to me than shooting gorgeous photos of eclipses for a hobby. In 2008, the heavens became part of our lives in a way we could have never imagined. That hot summer, our 4-year-old son was playing outside when he crawled into a new vehicle out of pure childhood curiosity and was locked inside. By the time we found him, he was already gone. It was every parent's worst nightmare, and it has taken years for Bethany, our family, and me to heal from the pain.
Yet, the heavens and star gazing give us comfort. There’s something peaceful about the incredible size of the heavens, and it serves as a reminder to us that something at the magnitude of our son’s accidental death is just beyond any logic we could ever possess or process here on earth. The heavens are full of these phenomena. Even when we measure distance in light years, the heavens remain beyond the scope of true human understanding. The heavens' massive existence is a reminder for our family and gives us comfort in knowing that we can feel love and joy, just as the designer intended. –Ethan Zimmerman
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