March 05, 2009

Photo of the Week: March 3, 2009

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Years ago, I took one of my first truly satisfying photographs of a full moon rising above the cliffs over Drakes Bay in northern California. I had read about it in a guidebook and knew exactly when and where to shoot. Ever since that moment, I've been chasing the moon with my camera, but I've never managed to surpass my initial success. The moon is a tricky subject because it's in constant motion – and moving a lot faster than you might think– and it is most visible at sunset or during the night, when little ambient light is available to light the accompanying landscape.

The new moon rises approximately one hour later each day until the rising full moon coincides with the setting sun, polar opposites on the horizon. The best time to shoot the full moon is actually the night before it becomes full, when it rises an hour before sunset and the landscape remains lit with the waning light of the day. It's easy to find moon calendars on the internet which chart both the rising and setting of the moon each day and its position on the horizon.

Despite being a student of the moon's habits, I took this shot spontaneously as I stepped off a bus outside the Ein Gedi Guesthouse near the Dead Sea. We had arrived at dusk and the color of the sky immediately captured my attention. When I saw the moon above the surrounding mountains, I knew I could get a shot that would render the true color of the twilight sky while throwing the mountains into black silhouette. It was already quite dark, so I had to shoot at 1/6 sec, which turned out to be just fast enough to retain the shape of the new crescent. With no time to set up a tripod, I braced myself against the side of the bus, held my breath, and hoped for the best.

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