I just returned from my May "Shoot the Moon" Yosemite workshop. In my April workshop we had fantastic conditions (clouds, rain, snow) but no moonlight; in this workshop we didn't have many clouds, but the clear skies were perfect for moonlight photography.
The Lower Yosemite Fall moonbow has become a real phenomenon in recent years, drawing tourists and photographers from around the world for Yosemite's spring full moons (April, May, June). The moonbow is beautiful to behold, but difficult to photograph. Difficult not so much for the exposure (capturing it requires not much more than a sturdy tripod, a digital SLR with relatively good high-ISO capabilities, and a little knowledge), but rather for the water and crowds to be dealt with at the bridge at the base of the fall.
Before my group made the short walk up to the fall, I had them assemble their rain paraphernalia (umbrellas, towels, plastic bags) and ready their cameras with the proper settings. I told them how to use their rain gear to shoot in wet conditions (the mist at the base of the fall is equivalent to photographing in a light, blowing rain) and showed them how to focus in moonlight.
When we arrived we found the bridge overrun with people, as expected, though not as bad as recent years. The moonbow was clearly visible to the naked eye as a shimmering silver band. While the camera is generally less capable than the human eye in many ways, one distinct advantage a camera has is its ability to accumulate light. So while our naked eye can't see the color in the moonbow, exposing the scene for an extended duration accumulates enough light to bring out the color.
I stood on a bench and shot above the hundreds of people there. I like lots of sky in my moonlight shots, and having the Big Dipper overhead was a real bonus. I framed the scene as a wide vertical to capture the Dipper suspended overhead, as if pouring into the fall. To maintain patience with the flashes, flashlights, and frequent jostling, I reminded myself that while I was there to photograph, others were there simply for the experience. In fact, waiting for things to calm not only gave me time to plan my composition, it allowed me to appreciate the moment much more than I would have had all my focus been on my camera.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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