February (Almost) Full Moonrise

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Ah, it was that special time of month again: the Full Moon.

I revolve around it. The event, I mean. I watch it build daily from New Moon, rising later and later each day, until finally it rises at sunset time. That’s why it’s full then: it’s exactly opposite the sun, reflecting its light off its otherwise dark, barren surface.

I especially like scenery photos with the moon in them. However, you have to include the moon in them while there is still enough daylight on the scene. Otherwise you have yet another boring pic of the black sky with the bright moon as a little circle in it. We sure don’t need any more of those.

So usually the best time to make moonrise photos is the day before Full Moon. Why? Because the moon rises somewhat before sunset, but is so close to Full that it still looks fantastic. You have both the moon low on the horizon, and the scene still in daylight, either with the low angle of the setting sun or the soft pastels of dusk. Such as this windmill and water tank on a ranch on the outskirts of Chino Valley, Arizona. The following evening would have the moon rising about 50 minutes later (it varies a little, but that’s a good general rule of thumb), and the scene would probably be too dark to have these nice tonal values and colors. (Also, the following night was cloudy, so this night was the night for that reason, too.)

Next time: how to use a fantastic app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to help you plan your moonrise and moonset shots.

Photo location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Central Arizona Highlands.

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Perfect February Evening, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Perfect February Evening, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Hanging rain clouds and rainbow at sunset, Lonesome Valley Buttes, Chino Valley, Arizona.

Shine On, From The Mountains

Arizona mountain sunrise, Yavapai County

And so the perfect month — October — comes to a close. On the calendar, anyway. It’s merely a mark in time. Meanwhile, we live day to day, savoring the glory of life.

Which is why I drove out of town this morning to once again search for photos that might express my joy and wonder at living here in the high, wide open spaces of Yavapai County in the Central Arizona Highlands.

This photo represents a sliver of what I found.

Photo location: Lonesome Valley, north of Prescott, Arizona.

Goodbye, October

Lonesome Valley sunrise colors, Arizona

October 30, only one day left in the month after this. In the perfect month. But the perfect month has almost run out of time.

A cold front had come through, with some clouds to possibly make sunrise colors. I launched myself out at dawn, wanting to roam a bit into the heart of Lonesome Valley.

In the beautiful high country and wide open spaces of the Central Arizona Highlands you can’t lose be being out in nature. Just go out, soak in the view, the fresh air, the friendly waves of people driving the other way on the country roads.

Anyway, I chose to drive east from Chino Valley on Perkinsville Road, because the views are wide open right away. High country grasslands, ranches, a chance to see one of the antelope herds, too.

The clouds above the Lonesome Valley Buttes lit up with the reds of the yet-unseen sun. Land shapes, sky shapes, color. The freezing dawn was warming up with sunrise, and the sun would soon warm the landscape with golden sunlight, too.

Goodbye, October. You’re the perfect month to me. The good news is that the second best month follows. November, when I get to savor the remnants lingering from your glowing light of autumn leaves.

Photo location: Lonesome Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Peek-A-Moon

Moonrise over Woodchute Mountain, Arizona

The rise of the Harvest Moon. It had reached 100% illumination just past 4 AM, so it was already slightly on the wane this evening.

Not that one could tell. At least I couldn’t. Didn’t want to. I stood at the east fence, camera on tripod in the sweet September dusk. The Earth’s shadow, with its lovely color gradations, was fading to all dark blue.

Then the orb appeared. Over Woodchute Mountain, beaming brightly. I stood and stood, watching.

And The Rain Came Down

Arizona monsoon thunderstorm and rainbowAt least it came down in one very localized area, as seen in this photo. So typical of Arizona’s “monsoon” summer thunderstorms. You’re either in one, or not. No in between.

I wasn’t in this one, which afforded me a view of it to the east, as sunset time approached. With a rainbow, no less, courtesy of the low angle of the sun through the rain curtain.

Evening sunlight and shadow splashed across the grasslands of the Central Arizona Highlands between Prescott and Chino Valley. Blue sky and more white and blue clouds in the far distance.

Life at the speed of the moment.

Sunset Radial Panorama

Arizona sunset panorama

Last night as I was approaching home, and the sunset hour, I could tell it had the makings of a spectacular one. The clouds were crazy patterned against the blue sky north of Prescott. Sometimes good looking sunset clouds move on or dissipate before the sun sets, but it didn’t look like that would happen this time. It pays to observe and be ready.

After stopping for several shots and some video, including “Grassland Skies”, I still had time to shower and wait for the sun to do its thing. Because I have a wide open western horizon in my back yard.

The clouds were not far above the horizon, rather than shutting off the sunset. So they would do their job as reflectors just after the sun had slipped below the landscape. But in this case, they also radiated out to the south, east, and north. What a killer combination of conditions. All I had to do next was watch and photograph.

As the recently departed sun’s fire lit up the clouds from below, I made a panorama series of four overlapping shots. That allowed me to merge them in Photoshop for one extremely high resolution final image, rather than taking a single super wide angle shot and cropping it heavily.

Photo Location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Muddy Mirror, Sullivan Lake

Sullivan Lake, Paulden, Yavapai County, ArizonaAfter the big monsoon thunderstorm up north, Chino Wash was awash with muddy water. The only kind of water dry country drainages seem to know. It’s either there, or not. And not for long.

The little dam that forms Sullivan Lake at Paulden, Arizona was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938, 75 years ago. It wasn’t thrown together at any old location. It’s the head of the Verde River, where the drainage has cut a small, vertical gorge through the malpais basalt rimrock. Plenty of basalt boulders to use in the construction, as well.

A few days after the big rain, the water was barely flowing over a portion of the right side of the dam. The rapidly greening Arizona Highlands grassland was vibrant in the evening sunlight. The water was still muddy, but reflected the blue sky quite nicely.

Photo Location: Paulden, Yavapai County, Arizona.