If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.
We have had a wet and stormy week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the United States have endured worse — floods or even tornadoes. This late spring/early summer weather can be violent.
So, my mind is traveling back to last week in the dry high-altitude desert. We had cacti all around us in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Joshua trees themselves are as numerous as they are unique. This one, uniquely shaped, seemed to point toward the setting moon in the west.
When you think of Florida, you probably think of beaches, baseball and golf. Or maybe Disney, tennis and retirees. Right now it’s snowing and cold in much of the United States, but in Florida the landscape is green and warm and teeming with life. In a typical day here, I observe numerous birds, lizards, turtles, alligators, and fish. In any case, when you think of Florida, you don’t think of dead trees…unless perhaps you think of hurricanes.
Lover’s Key State Park has a white sandy beach, lots of shells and birds and people with beach towels and coolers, but it also has a number of dead trees. They stand boldly on the beach where they have tried to survive hurricanes and all manner of wind and weather. While their leaves and branches are long gone, several trunks still stand tall, reminding us of our mortality and the circle of life.
Looking through my viewfinder to see the moon in the composition, I liked the simplicity of the blue and white image. The stark tree trunks reminded me of the skulls that Georgia O’Keeffe painted in New Mexico. I think that O’Keeffe liked the simple sculptural shape of the white, dessicated skulls, and she also probably thought about that unpopular subject, the short term nature of our lives.
I can hear these words echo in my mind, “The Moon carries tremendous visual weight.” My photography mentors remind me to consider this when I compose a frame with the moon. I am listening. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the moon. To create balance in the composition, the other side of the frame needs some “weight.” That’s where the Grand Teton comes in, the high peak on the right.
This image also features a contrast of cool and warm tones. The blue and grey in the sky and mountaintops contrast the warmly lit fall color in the trees and grasses in the valley. Good morning, Jackson Hole! I’m enjoying a deep breath of your fresh air and cool Fall temperatures. It’s time for a warm cup of coffee.
The moments when the day’s first sunbeams spotlight the mountain tops are very special. I have awoken in the dark and the cold and dragged my weary bones to the right place. Am I awake? I’m not sure. My buddy has brought the wrong tripod, and is struggling with the settings on his camera. He is not awake.
As the time for sunrise approaches, the sky begins to lighten, and there don’t appear to be any clouds in the sky. Darn, clouds would help to enliven the sky and pick up the rosy tints of the rising sun. Perhaps 50 photographers line the shore along Schwabacher’s Landing, some with DSLRs and tripods, others with iPhones. Looking back toward the parking lot, I see a line of headlights as more photographers flock to this popular site.
And then the magic begins. The tips of the peaks reflect the sunrise first, and moment by moment, that rosy light grows and moves down the Grand Teton range. The full moon (well, it was full the day before) just as swiftly slides downward and to the right toward the peaks. Yes, morning has broken at Schwabacher’s Landing.
My visit to Grand Teton National Park was well timed to coincide with the peak of fall foliage and the moonset as well. For every month, the full moon sets at virtually the same time that the sun rises. That singular morning is a great opportunity to capture the full moon close to the horizon while the sun has only gently lit the scene.
When I’m at home, the moon sets behind my neighbor’s house. The view is not at all comparable to the rugged peak of Mount Moran with fall foliage in the foreground. Traveling out West with a group of photographers gave me a better opportunity and the incentive I needed to wake up in the dark and venture outdoors in the cold.
A large number of photographers gather along the shore of the Snake River at Oxbow Bend to take advantage of the possible reflections of the mountain, the trees and the moon in the water. As the sun rose, fog began to form and the wind blew it across the surface of the water. My fingers and toes turned to ice cubes before we finished the shoot, but the experience was worth it, especially in the company of friends.