All day the weather looked promising. Even though there were high hazy clouds into early afternoon, all indications pointed to them clearing up, leaving behind perfect conditions. I really wanted to take some twilight photos on the solstice this year.
I planned my photography expedition for Golden Gardens because I wanted to be looking over Puget Sound and the park doesn’t close until 11:30 pm. Closing time is important if you’re wanting to shoot at twilight on the longest day of the year without getting trapped inside by a locked gate.
Since solstice was on a Sunday this year, and the day had been warm and sunny, I knew the park would be crowded. So I carefully timed my arrival for just after sunset, figuring people would be leaving then, opening up a parking spot in the area I wanted to go.
What I did not figure on was that solstice was not only on a Sunday, it was on Father’s Day Sunday. I didn’t realize that until I heard people at the park calling, “Happy Father’s Day!” to each other. My own father having died almost twenty years ago I haven’t had to keep track of the holiday in a very long time.
Apparently when you combine perfect weather, solstice, and Father’s Day on a weekend, half of the entire population of Seattle ends up at Golden Gardens. I haven’t seen a park that crowded since the one and only time I went to watch 4th of July fireworks at Myrtle Edwards in the 1980s.
People were literally shoulder-to-shoulder on the beach to watch the sunset and a constant stream of humanity strolled the promenade. Every bench and picnic table was occupied. And the cars! I have never seen such crazy parking.
But my timing was okay. I didn’t have to wait too long for a parking spot to open up and I found an empty half of a bench to set up shop. After about fifteen minutes I was able to move and claim a bench of my very own.
Once I had my own little piece of territory, and my tripod and camera set up how I wanted them, I was able to relax and begin enjoying the experience.
The sky was just as spectacular as I’d expected, with clouds of vivid yellow and orange on the horizon, a bright waxing crescent moon, brilliant planets, and eventually twinkling stars slowly emerging. The temperature was moderate, with only a slight breeze.
Not too long after I arrived a great blue heron flew in and stood in the shallows at the mouth of the creek. It was too dark by then to get a photo, but its silent, majestic presence added to the magic.
As illumination from the disappearing sun dimmed, bonfires on the beach became beacons of light in the gathering darkness. In the distance, out on the point, fire dancers twirled flaming batons to the thrumming beat of a drum circle.
That primal combination of fire and drum seeped into my soul. It is primitive and ancestral, the perfect accompaniment to ever-changing colors of a vast twilight sky.
It was a magnificent golden solstice.
The final two photos were taken at 10:30 pm, a full one hour and twenty minutes after sunset.