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Gay photographer who captured epic 2017 eclipse image will take to the sky to outdo himself Monday

Author: Christopher Wiggins

In 2017, Jon Carmichael captured an image of the summer’s total solar eclipse, visible in North America, that mesmerized the world and established him as a visionary in astrophotography. His plans for photographing the Monday solar eclipse in the United States are even more ambitious — and magical.
Orginal photography courtesy Jon CarmichaelCourtesy Jon CarmichaelThe map of his famous flightOriginal Photography Courtesy Jon CarmichaelCourtesy Jon Carmichael

“Elton John heard about my story through this miraculous grapevine,” Carmichael recalls. The gravity of this connection wasn’t lost on him. To have his work sought after and owned by Elton John was an honor and a transformative validation of his artistic pursuit. It was an affirmation that his photography resonated on a level that attracted the attention of one of the art world’s luminaries.

The specifics of how Elton John came to own Carmichael’s art are as remarkable as the images themselves. Initially reaching out for a possible meeting, John’s interest in Carmichael’s photography quickly evolved into an endorsement of his art. “My first time seeing my own printed work was with him in his living room,” Carmichael shares, recounting the surreal experience of viewing his photographs alongside the rocket man.

Chasing the April 8, 2024, eclipse

As another eclipse approaches, Carmichael finds himself with a similar, albeit more grandiose, opportunity. This time, the offer to chase the eclipse comes not from a commercial airline but involves the private jet of another entertainment titan, offering even greater flexibility and control over the photographic conditions. Carmichael says Southwest did reach out and offer to have him and his family on a flight — an offer he seriously considered until another opportunity wrapped in secrecy presented itself.

“Recently a friend texted me and said that David Copperfield wanted to meet me, which was wild,” Carmichael says. The iconic illusionist told Carmichael that he had yet to experience complete darkness from a solar eclipse and offered him the use of his private jet.

“I’m going to be flying with David in his private jet,” he says. “So we’re going to be going really high, up to 49,000 or 50,000 feet.”

The new partnership will offer Carmichael an unparalleled opportunity to push the boundaries of astrophotography. “It’s just so cool,” he says.

For him, the chance to work alongside someone renowned for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary is an honor and a challenge.

When the sky is the limit

Carmichael says that with this incredible opportunity comes the weight of decision-making, particularly regarding the logistics of capturing the eclipse. He says he finds himself navigating the intricacies of planning a flight path that will offer optimal conditions for his photography. “So now everything is changing, and now my anxiety is through the roof,” he admits.

One of the most daunting aspects of this project is deciding precisely where to fly to capture the eclipse. When the sky is the limit, the decision is fraught with variables, from weather patterns to the eclipse’s trajectory and what background of the Earth below to capture. “It’s a lot of decisions to make — where out of the whole U.S. do I want to be?” Carmichael explains.

Monday’s eclipse represents more than just a chance for another spectacular snapshot of time; it symbolizes a step forward from the shadows of disappointment, says Carmichael. The complete darkness of an eclipse — a moment that transcends time and earthly concerns — echoes Carmichael’s journey back from the brink of despair, reminding him of the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe that first captured his heart.

As he looks to the sky once more, his plans for Monday’s eclipse are tinged with a deep reverence for totality and its power to unite. “It really doesn’t [get old],” he says.

The experience of absolute darkness, with its ability to dissolve differences and inspire collective wonder, holds a special place in his heart.

“Differences dissipate as the moon’s shadow passes over the Earth, and collective wonder prevails,” he says. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and people who have witnessed totality say it’s unlike anything you can possibly imagine.”

His voice imbued with a renewed sense of wonder, Carmichael says, “It’s like looking at the eye of God.”

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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