I just returned from a very quick, very successful (and very exhausting!) trip to Yosemite. We (my mini-workshop group and several photographer friends I had invited) drove to Sentinel Dome Thursday night and hiked to the dome, reaching the top just in time to photograph the day's last light turn the billowing cumulus above Half Dome a rich crimson. When the sunset show ended we waited for enough darkness to photograph star trails above Yosemite Valley. It was after 11:00 when we packed up and started picking our way down the granite slope in the moonless dark. We didn't make it back to our rooms until nearly 1:00, barely enough time to close our eyes before meeting again at 4:00 (AM!) for the next show, this crescent moon rising above Half Dome in the dawn light.
Calculating the best location to photograph a rising or setting crescent or full moon has become an essential part of my photography. When I realized the May waning crescent would be perfectly positioned above Half Dome on May 22, I quickly organized this trip. (A similar shot could have been achieved on May 23, but the moon would have been in the brighter part of the sky closer to the sun, limiting the window for photography. And it also would have meant dealing with the Memorial Day crowds.) As viewed from Tunnel View, I'd determined the moon would rise at 4:30, but wasn't sure there would be enough light in the sky to photograph it until a bit closer to sunrise. But even if it meant arriving a little too early, I just wanted to watch the moonrise, so I dragged everyone out of bed and we were on the road a little after 4:00.
We arrived shortly before 4:30, just early enough for me to fire off one test shot that confirmed I would indeed be able to bring out enough light in the sky without completely blowing out the moon. When the tip of the crescent peeked above Ahwiyah Point I was ready with two cameras. Capturing enough contrast between the sky and the outline of Yosemite Valley required 15 seconds at f4 and ISO 500--an exposure that also brought out more detail than I could see in the moon's unlit section. For the first few minutes stars were still visible, but my exposure revealed even more, enhancing the image further.
Shortly after I captured this image Venus emerged from behind Cathedral Rocks (to the right, just out of this frame), adding one more element to the already spectacular sky. (I'll share one or two more images from this morning in the coming days.) These group shoots are always fun, full of chat and laughter, but when things start happening everyone gets quiet and the only sounds are clicking shutters and occasional exclamations of delight. In the rapidly changing light we were able to photograph for about an hour before the encroaching day engulfed the moon. But until then I experienced was one of those special times when my appreciation of nature and my love of photography were in perfect synch--I just knew gazing at the sky above Yosemite Valley that morning that I was capturing the most beautiful thing happening on earth at that moment.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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