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Rising Crescent, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 14 April 2009 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

I'm back from a great trip to Yosemite and playing catch-up. We (my "Shoot the Moon" workshop group) had fantastic conditions in Yosemite that included snow, clearing storms, a rainbow, wildflowers, and a fabulous moonrise. I'm afraid the stormy conditions didn't allow us to shoot moonlight, but nobody complained. I'll try to post something from the trip later this week, but until then, here's one from a year or so ago.

Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay is quite understandably an extremely popular photography subject. An unfortunate byproduct of this popularity is that, like Yosemite's Tunnel View, Emerald Bay photos have become cliché. But also like Tunnel View, rather than preventing me from shooting there, it makes me work harder to find something unique.

Finding a unique image at popular location often involves pulling out a telephoto and isolating individual elements of the larger scene. Or, as in this case, finding a new element to add to the composition. The moon's predictability makes it a perfect candidate for a unique subject--you just need to figure out when it's going to be where you want it, then put yourself in place to capture it.

While Lake Tahoe is less than two hours from my home, I don't get up there nearly as much as I get to Yosemite. But when my friend and fellow photographer Doug Otto showed me his beautiful shot of Emerald Bay at sunrise, it occurred to me that a crescent moon would be a perfect accent for the scene. So I did a little calculating to determine when it would happen and where I should be.

Doug met me there the evening before and we scouted the location a bit, photographing a nice sunset in the process. While Doug and his wife retreated to the comfy confines of a nearby motel, I found a place to park my SUV and curled up in my sleeping bag. When we met the next morning the moon, preceded in the sky by Venus, was low on the eastern horizon, just as planned.

Many people believe the moon must be large to be an effective subject, opting for maximum telephoto shots to fill as much of the frame as possible. But the moon, in any phase but particularly crescent or full, has tremendous visual weight regardless of its size--even a small crescent like this can carry a significant portion of the frame. So in this composition I chose to use the moon as an accent for an already beautiful scene.

BTW, if you'll pardon a brief plug, I've scheduled a 1 1/2 day trip (sunset and maybe some star trail shooting on day one through sunset on day two) to Yosemite in late May to photograph a crescent moon rising above Half Dome. It's $200, and I provide the transportation from Sacramento. The trip is open to the first four to sign up.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Uday from Fishers, United States

Great shot. Love the colors and the silhouette provided by the landscape.

14 Apr 2009 1:57pm

oncho from granada, Spain


14 Apr 2009 4:45pm

@oncho: Gracias!

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Very beautiful photograph

14 Apr 2009 6:14pm

Bill Jennings from Los Altos (Bay Area Calif), United States

Wish I could go with you from Sac - is this a weekend shooting retreat? What a beautiful composition of the crescent moon. Love it!

15 Apr 2009 10:59pm

@Bill Jennings: Thanks, Bill. I avoid weekends in Yosemite from April through September, so my May trip won't be on a weekend.