December Moonrise, Bears Ears Buttes

Early evening moonrise, from Natural Bridges Visitor Center.

Early evening moonrise, from Natural Bridges Visitor Center. (Click on image for larger version).

The December 2015 Full Moon will occur on Christmas day for the first time since 1977. Moonrise will occur just before 6 PM here in the Mountain Time Zone in the U.S. That’s about 45 minutes after sunset, so landscape photos at that time will be black, or nearly so, by the time the moon clears the eastern horizon.

Visitor Center at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Visitor Center at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, with snowy Deer Flat and the Woodenshoe Buttes in the distance.

So, as usual the time to get great moonrise landscape shots is the day before. Sometimes two days before, depending on when moonrise and sunset times occur.

Moonrise over the Bears Ears Buttes.

Moonrise over the Bears Ears Buttes.

This time it occurred two days before, on December 23. That’s because the moon would reach 100 percent illumination at about 4 AM on the 25th, making the evening of the 24th the effective rise of the Full Moon. So one day before that was landscape photography time.

I was heading out to one of my favorite vistas on the 23rd for possible sunset shots when I saw the moon rising over the Bears Ears Buttes. I got some shots from the parking lot at the Visitor Center at Natural Bridges National Monument, then looked for a clear vista of the Bears Ears somewhat closer. The pinyon-juniper forest was in the way from the views on the entrance road, so I parked and hurriedly trudged into the woods through the snow looking for a high spot, a clearing, or both. I certainly didn’t have much time; I would have to get lucky.

Moonrise over Bears Ears, from pinyon pine-Utah juniper forest, Natural Bridges.

Moonrise over Bears Ears, from pinyon pine-Utah juniper forest, Natural Bridges.

I was fortunate to find a spot within about five minutes. So I shot, waited, and shot some more as sunset neared.

The recent snowfalls, including another heavy snow squall a couple hours previous, had the surrounding cliffs of Elk Ridge and Deer Flat freshened up with even more white than in the morning. Indeed, what was showing to the north of me was competing even with the moonrise scene. Because the Woodenshoe Buttes were lit up with evening light, too, only more from the side than the Bear Ears were.

The Woodenshoe Buttes in snow, from Natural Bridges.

The Woodenshoe Buttes in snow, from Natural Bridges.

Finally the sun was down. I was hoping for some alpenglow, but there were no clouds above the setting sun to create that tonight. I contented myself with the last pink clouds to the east above the Bears Ears, now deep in the shadow of dusk.

Last of the sunset colors over the Bears Ears.

Last of the sunset colors over the Bears Ears.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

 

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