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Waning Crescent, Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 19 August 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

Some images are the product of elaborate plans, others are fortuitous convergences of location and time. I can't believe there was ever a time when I didn't know the position and phase of the moon on a photo trip, but this one from a few years ago caught me by surprise. As a direct result of this sunrise-moonrise experience I started tracking of the moon's status and incorporating it into most of my workshops and personal photo trips.

My brother and I had ventured to Mono Lake in early October to photograph the fall color in the Eastern Sierra. Rising early enough to be in place for our sunrise destination, we exited our room and were (pleasantly) startled by this graceful crescent dangling above Mono Lake. With little time to spare we darted across the highway and set up hour tripods on the shoulder. I don't think I took more than six frames of this scene before we hopped in the car and motored off to our planned destination. I'm afraid we were so concerned about making our sunrise location on time that we failed to appreciate the opportunity right before my eyes.

Of course now I have irrefutable evidence (the images captured that morning) that we left the real show behind. Our planned sunrise shoot turned out to be a disappointment, and as I reviewed my images from that morning it was quite clear that we'd made a mistake by giving up on the moonrise so quickly.

Fortunately I did capture this one frame; it has turned out to be one of my personal favorites. Though I have no memory of my decision process that morning, I know things happened so quickly that I sometimes wonder if for this composition I unconsciously relied on my intuition rather than the photography "truths" (such as "use the rule of thirds" and "don't center subjects") that sometimes constrain me when I'm too deliberate. (The reality is, intuition almost always trumps rules.)

It's experiences like this morning at Mono Lake that remind me not to become so focused on my own agenda that I fail to recognize the serendipitous gifts Mother Nature frequently delivers. I'm convinced that the opportunities are everywhere, all the time. Sometimes they're obvious like this, other times they're far more subtle, limited only by my ability to see them.

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

Leanne from Victoria, Australia

Heavenly. Wonderful capture.

19 Aug 2010 5:36am

Florence from Paris, France

Wow. Colors (wow this blue is gorgeous) from ground to sky are really amazing, so pure, almost icy (not in the sense of cold) but... well difficult to express... pure as ice... in fact. Your vertical crop adds a lot. A spectacular shot Gary.

19 Aug 2010 7:25am

Michelle from Elverson, United States

Five Stars on this one! I LOVE.

19 Aug 2010 11:29am

Judy aka Ladybug from Brooksville, Florida, United States

The crescent holds the moon 'in its hands' so to speak ... a gorgeous image and of course a beautiful foreground!

19 Aug 2010 11:36am

Wild Mustang Photography from Carlisle, United States

Stunning! This is a 5*****! Beautiful work!!!!

19 Aug 2010 1:38pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Hi Gary - Your words are just as marvelous to read and know to be true as your images are to view and marvel over. I always come away with a feeling of renewal and a desire to try and learn as much as I can from what was just put in front of me. For all of this, I Thank you Sir.

19 Aug 2010 1:57pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

I love this! And I also love that it proves that it's OK to follow our hearts to make our photos unique and our own! So wonderful!

19 Aug 2010 3:37pm

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Its a real beauty Gary! Well I am glad you guys gave it even those 5 minutes and weren't so focused that you just ignored it. At least you have this lovely shot to remember it by!

19 Aug 2010 4:31pm

Henrik Herskind from Copenhagen, Denmark

Pure and simply a magic composition! 5 stars. And a very interesting story.

19 Aug 2010 6:44pm

Mici from Tg Mures, Romania

Impressive work, congrats

19 Aug 2010 6:46pm

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Fantastic Gary ! The clarity of this image is really incredible... Can't take my eyes of it. 5***** of course.
Have a nice day :)

19 Aug 2010 7:18pm

MJ Hubbard from United States

I love the wuote " intuition almost always trumps rules". So true, so true.

19 Aug 2010 8:11pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Wonderful composition..congrats!

19 Aug 2010 10:04pm

Sandy Weston from Madison, Maine, United States

I love Mono Lake! This is gorgeous....the moon is amazing :)

20 Aug 2010 1:20am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb minimalistic composition and great use of space to offset the moon from the ground! there is a fantastic smooth gradient to the colour change and light transition in the sky that creates a calm and peaceful atmosphere! lovely work!

20 Aug 2010 4:00am

Steve from Camdenton, United States

A fantastic shot indeed. And I know what you mean, when I go out to take some photos and have one agenda in mind that I fail to have my eyes open to a more beautiful shot right in front of me. Congrats on this photo!

21 Aug 2010 3:09am

VisualStoryteller from Cape Cod, United States

Pure emotion...from the silhouette gray of the hills above Mono Lake, to the peach sherbet coolness of the sun's rays that lead my eye up to the white ice crescent buried in a deep blue zenith of the sky. What a peaceful image and visual treat Gary.

I was fortunate to witness a similar juxtaposition of objects and colors one pre-dawn outing at Myrtle Beach, SC. The peach colors were more orange but, funny thing, the crescent of the moon was the same! :)

Another artifact that I am still puzzled about was the presence of dark rays (almost like searchlight beams) streaking up from the sun when it was still below the horizon. Maybe clouds below the horizon? Have you ever seen them? Your image was clearly taken when the sky was pure and cloudless but perhaps you have others that show what I am trying to describe.

24 Aug 2010 8:51pm

@VisualStoryteller: The rays you mention can be caused by clouds or mountain peaks casting shadows in the sky. So even though the sun is below the horizon from your perspective, it can still strike the sky above your head--when you see those rays when the sun's below the horizon, it just means that something is blocking some of the rays in the sky above you.

✿ Anina ✿ from Auckland, New Zealand

Oh wow!!! Beautiful tones and lighting. I really like the dark silhouettes

25 Aug 2010 11:14pm

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

The colors are really spectacular here and your story an insightful one. Sometimes beauty is right outside the door and you don't need to look elsewhere. Maybe it's just a matter of following your gut in cases like these.

26 Aug 2010 2:34pm

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Very nice composition and lovely captured gradient colors!

27 Aug 2010 6:50am