Guy with a camera on a plane

An amazing photo that reminds me of a unified moment. Plus an apartment listing (of all things). And 7 other things worth your time.

This is probably one of my favorite photographs in the world.

(If you haven’t enabled images, you’re missing out.)

The photographer’s name is Jon Carmichael. He took it from a Southwest Airlines flight from Portland to St. Louis on August 21, 2017.

That was the date of the Great American Eclipse.

(Here’s his website, where you can buy a print of the photo. I have one.)

I think I love the story behind the photo even more. Carmichael is a professional photographer who has done a lot of work for clients like Twitter (which is how I first learned about the eclipse photo).

He’s also a self-described “big space nerd,” who had been looking forward to the eclipse since seventh grade. (He’s 33 now.)

Not being made of money, he scoured commercial flight schedules to figure out which domestic flight might give him the best shot.

That’s what led him to travel from New York to Portland in 2017, simply to turn around and fly back east toward St. Louis aboard flight #1368 — armed with his cameras and $600 in cash, in case he had to bribe any other passengers into giving him the window seat.

But that wasn’t necessary. In fact, the captain learned what Carmichael was doing, managed to clean his window in Seat 1A, and even did five 180-degree turns at full totality so he could get the shot.

I wrote about the story behind this for Inc.com a few years ago — along with how Carmichael wound up subbing for Elon Musk at a giant Twitter all-hands meeting as a result.

But I wanted to share it again. The eclipse is the last time I can think of that our whole country — and much of the world — was focused on just one thing together. I mean, until now of course.

So I talked with Carmichael again, by phone on Friday. He lives in New York, but he’d been visiting his mom in Nevada when the coronavirus pandemic got serious in the United States.

After spending several weeks quarantined with her in an apartment, he’s leaving today in an RV for Arizona—planning to camp alone in state parks for a while.

He told me the photo, and people’s reactions to it, has really changed his life:

“I view the photo entirely different now. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that it’s so universal. It was such a uniting moment, for one day, when everyone came together and looked up at the sky, and the U.S. paused for a moment. …

Here we are again in this giant pause, this worldwide pause. I want to think there can be beauty in that, too.”

I’m just glad I had the chance to share the photo with readers again. Here’s to the next time we’ll all be united and focused on something positive once more.


This might be a long shot, but what the heck. Carmichael normally lives in New York, but since he’s going to be in the Southwest for a while, he asked me to mention that he has a vacant apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

If anyone happens to know any doctors or nurses or other people volunteering in New York, he wants to offer them a place to stay. Just reply to this email and I’ll put you in touch.


7 other things worth your time

  • I hate to start with this, but as the coronavirus gets even more deadly, the U.S. Surgeon General warned Sunday: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.” (Fox News)

  • The Navy captain who was relieved of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he sent a letter about Covid-19 aboard has himself now tested positive. (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • While the worst hotspots have so far been in New York and other urban areas, data shows that there are likely to be many coronavirus hotspots in the rural South, including Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi. (University of Chicago)

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been recovering at home from a Covid-19 infection, was admitted to the hospital due to his “persistent symptoms” Sunday. (BBC)

  • The prime minister of Ireland, who is also a doctor, will work one shift a week doing telephone patient assessments, after 50,000 Irish medical professionals responded to a call for retired and former professionals to help. (Irish Times)

  • Meet the South African couple who went on their honeymoon in a $750-a-night resort in the Maldives in March, and have been marooned there as they only remaining guests ever since. (New York Times, $)

  • I wrote about Bill Gates’s revelation that his foundation will spend billions to build manufacturing facilities for seven possible coronavirus vaccines, despite knowing five of them will fail and likely wind up being wasted. (Me, on Inc.com)

    Photo courtesy of Jon Carmichael. Ideas and feedback actively solicited. If you haven’t subscribed, now’s your chance! (You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com.)

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