Successful photography requires the convergence craft, position, visual elements, and conditions. Some of these we can control, others we can't. As photographers we do all we can to hone our craft, put ourselves in the best position, and identify the visual elements necessary for a successful image. But if the conditions don't cooperate, we're out of luck.
For at least six months I'd targeted last Saturday, November 20, to be in position at Tunnel View to photograph the rising full Moon. Weather permitting. I was excited enough, and confident enough in California's predominantly drama-free weather, that I scheduled a class to coincide with the moonrise. And since we were enjoying such a beautiful fall, about a week before the trip it was with very little concern that I checked the weather forecast: "Chance of rain." Huh? Outside it felt like spring, so I (rather obsessively) started checking several times each day, blindly confident that the weatherman would soon come to his senses. But each forecast was more firm than the previous, and with every passing day it became increasingly clear that the weather gods were going to mess with me. By Friday the Saturday forecast included a "Winter Storm Warning" with a "100% chance of rain or snow." Great conditions for photography, but not so much for a moonrise.
So I shifted my sights, adjusted my expectations, and gave my group the option to reschedule. I warned them that photographing Yosemite in these conditions could range from incredible to impossible. And the Moon was off the table. Most of the group decided to give it a shot anyway, hoping for a day of fresh snow and swirling clouds. And snow and clouds we got plenty of indeed. As it turned out our visit coincided with a break between weather systems and we benefited from fresh snow deposited Friday night without having to endure the difficulties of the next storm scheduled for later Saturday. There was even some blue sky.
Nevertheless, as the day progressed the clouds regrouped and we knew the Moon . Pulling into Tunnel View about an hour before sunset, I was resigned to a moonless, colorless sunset and reminded the group that despite the Moon's absence we'd had a great day. But, we were there, with nothing better to do, since in Yosemite it's impossible to predict the conditions in five minutes based on the conditions now, we stayed put. We set up at the Tunnel View vista and everyone had a great time photographing the clouds in Yosemite Valley. Because I have more than enough Tunnel View images, I planted my tripod in the middle of the group and pretended to wait for the moonrise I knew wouldn't come. Then, about 30 minutes before sunset, a hole appeared in the sky above Half Dome and as I watched it grow, I allowed myself just a little hope. I made sure my lens was on the spot where the moon would appear, set my exposure, and focused. Silly me--just as the color started to appear, the clouds seemed to consolidate and the opening shrank as quickly as it had appeared. Oh well.
So imagine my surprise when, just as the sunset color peaked, a small gap opened to reveal the glowing Moon in all its luminous splendor. With my composition and exposure ready and I was able to fire off five frames before the clouds realized their mistake and reabsorbed the Moon. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than 30 seconds.
By the time the Moon reappeared the was too dark to get usable foreground and Moon detail. But I had my shot, and it wasn't too dark to appreciate what I was seeing, another one of those, "This is the most beautiful thing happening on Earth right now" moments.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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