Rise Of The Hunter’s Moon, Valley Of The Gods

October Full Moon at dusk, San Juan River valley near Mexican Hat, Utah.

October Full Moon rising at dusk, San Juan River valley near Mexican Hat, Utah.

Last month’s (September’s) Full Moon was the beautiful lunar eclipse. For the October Full Moon, I tried a different landscape, in part because I didn’t have time to get to where some mountain peaks would be the foreground. You do what you can.

Sunset on Raplee Anticline and San Juan River valley, Utah-Arizona.

Sunset on Raplee Anticline and San Juan River valley, Utah-Arizona.

So I drove to the southern edge of Cedar Mesa in southeast Utah. There it looms a thousand feet above the valley floor, with red buttes and spires below. It’s looking down on what is called the Valley Of The Gods, a rough but fairly popular road on Bureau Of Land Management (BLM) land.

Highway 261 bisects Cedar Mesa, north to south, before descending 1,100 feet in three miles via the Moki Dugway to the San Juan River valley near Mexican Hat, Utah.

I drove roughly a third of the way down the Dugway, to where there is a wide turnout and an easy walk across the sandstone slickrock to a point looking east and southeast.

I was in position in plenty of time, and waited. The full moon would rise right around sunset. In the meantime I enjoyed the last reddish rays of the sun on Lime Ridge on the Navajo Nation, geologically called the Raplee Anticline, to the south of the San Juan River near Mexican Hat.

October moonrise over Valley Of The Gods, from the Moki Dugway.

October moonrise over Valley Of The Gods, from the Moki Dugway.

Then, there it was, right on schedule. White-blue at first, then deepening to a soft yellow as the blue of the Earth’s Shadow and the pink gradations of the Venus Band deepened as the sun was set below the horizon.

On the way back up to Cedar Mesa I stopped for a wide angle photo of the Moki Dugway with the moon.

Full Moon from Moki Dugway, Highway 261, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Full Moon from Moki Dugway, Highway 261, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

In the morning, it was time for the other end of the Full Moon night: Moonset. I drove west this time, toward Moss Back Butte and the Tables Of The Sun mesas. A huge advantage to photographing moonset is that the moon is already visible, not hidden below the eastern horizon like it is at moonrise. It’s going down, and you have some time to position yourself where the landscape will make for an interesting composition as it gets light at dawn.

Moonset at dawn and Moss Back Butte.

Moonset at dawn and Moss Back Butte.

But not an infinite amount of time. So I chose a spot on Highway 95 where Moss Back Butte would be the dominant landform in the photo.

Then the sun rose and lit up the Red House Cliffs, and this period of my shooting day came to a close. Onto another subject.

Sunrise on Red House Cliffs, San Juan County, Utah.

Sunrise on Red House Cliffs, San Juan County, Utah.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

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2 comments on “Rise Of The Hunter’s Moon, Valley Of The Gods

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