Chasing the Sinking Moon
Jan 15, 2017
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how the process of nature photography can be a lot more imperfect than it seems. It's hard to know when the conditions will come together. You can learn over time what kind of conditions will be more optimal than others, but you just never know. That's where persistence comes in, to keep on going out there when you don't know what you're going to get. As I said before, there's plenty of times where things don't work out, but then there are those days when things come together. But if you're not out there, you definitely won't get the shot.
The morning I took this photo was one of those mornings. I had planned to shoot the sunrise on the mountains this morning, and the weather was supposed to be clear. As soon as I stepped out my front door though, in the early morning light I could tell there were some clouds on the eastern horizon. I thought about texting the other photographer I was meeting that morning and going back to bed. This was one of those mornings I had to remind myself to go out anyway, even if I wasn't optimistic. As I made the drive to Golden Ponds Park in Longmont, I noticed that the full moon was dropping towards the mountains to the west, and the sky in that direction was clear. In the previous months we had tried some shots of the full moon as it rose in the evening, but this would be a different kind of opportunity. On arriving at the park, we could tell that the moon would drop close to the mountain peaks of Longs Peak & Mount Meeker that dominate Longmont's view to the west. The moon was dropping fast though, and we hurried to get set up before it was gone. On the day of the full moon, the moon rises shortly after sunset and sets just before sunrise. This makes getting a balanced exposure tricky, expecially on a morning like this where the sun was clouded in and not shining light on the landscape. To make this image, I made two exposures. One longer exposure to open up the shadows on the landscape, and a shorter exposure to hold detail on the brighter moon. The moon drops quickly as it gets close to the horizon though, so you want to capture these exposures as quickly as possible to save time in blending the two photos later. If too much time passes between exposures, the moon will have moved too far and it will be very difficult to put the two pictures together. You could call this an HDR photo, although a little different from the usual situation where you use that technique. The sunrise light never did materialize that morning, as I had expected it wouldn't. If I had bailed out on this morning however, I would have missed out on this special opportunity.
It's been a year now since I made this photo, and while I've intended to pursue the opportunity that the full moon setting provides I have yet to catch it again. I'll keep trying though, and I'll keep getting out there chasing these special moments. You should too!
To purchase a print of this image, click on the photo at the top and you'll be taken to its page in my print store.Purchase one this week (through January 21), and I'll take 20% off!