Chasing Down the October Moon

Moon Setting Over the Aspen Fall Colors, Rico, Colorado.

Moon Setting at dawn over the fall Colors, Rico, Colorado.

I was rolling up Colorado Highway 145 in the dark, intent on having a perfect October day of photographing in the high country.

Historic Silver Mine Headframe and setting moon, Rico, Colorado.

Historic Silver Mine Headframe, Rico, Colorado.

As the dawn light slowly illuminated the landscape, the just-past-Full Moon was getting ready to set behind the San Juan Mountains. At Rico–perhaps my favorite mountain town–I pulled over for some shots.

Mountains and Fall Colors Reflected in Ponds at Dawn, Rico, Colorado.

Mountains and fall colors reflected in ponds at dawn, Rico, Colorado.

I turned off onto the road along the old beaver ponds and the hot springs. A calm chilly morning, perfect for keeping the ponds still to serve as mirrors.

Sunrise Reflection and fall aspen colors, Rico, Colorado.

Sunrise reflection, Rico, Colorado.

I was about to continue driving when I noticed the sunrise on one of the high peaks in the distance. And of course its reflection on the water’s surface.

After that it was really time to get back on the road. Because who knew what more lay ahead after a start like this?

Up the highway to Lizard Head Pass, and an early morning scene with its namesake, Lizard Head Peak.

Lizard Head Peak Morning Sunshine, From Lizard Head Pass, Colorado.

Lizard Head Peak morning sunshine, from Lizard Head Pass.

Further along the road, I was afforded another glimpse of the moon over the high peaks.

Moon Setting Beyond Bare Aspen Trees and mountain peaks, San Miguel County, Colorado.

Moon setting beyond bare aspen trees, San Miguel County, Colorado.

And another. I made a high resolution panoramic image of the scenery, free of the dark foreground trees, before heading down the South Fork of the San Miguel River. Which will be the focus of the next post.

Moon about to set over the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains, southwest Colorado.

Moon about to set over the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains.

Photo location: San Juan Mountains, southwest Colorado.

See more of my photography at NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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Moon Sleeps Behind Sleeping Ute Mountain

Moonset over Sleeping Ute Mountain, Colorado.

Moonset beginning over Sleeping Ute Mountain.

I had failed to be out there to photograph the October moonrise. It had been a rough day, and I preferred to stay at home. The moon waits for no one, though.

But before first light the next morning, I awoke thinking it was dawn. It wasn’t. It was the all-but-Full Moon shining through my west window. As it was descending. Moonset.

I rolled out of bed and grabbed my camera gear and loaded up in the dark. Well, not totally dark. Moonlight.

Using The Photographer’s Ephemeris desktop application I had scoped out where to go for this event. It would sink behind Sleeping Ute Mountain if I were positioned atop Mesa Verde’s North Rim. Even in my sleepy condition, it seemed like I had a quite good chance of making it there yet, if I hurried.

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Full Moon descending from a cloud bank, Sleeping Ute Mountain.

I did. Parking at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, I shut off the engine and the lights. The bright moon was the only light I was interested in.

The moon was descending through a thin cloud bank. Good in that it was not overcast.

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Panorama of Moonset, Sleeping Ute, and the lights of Cortez.

The wind was ripping through the notch in the Rim. Oh, nice, I thought, so windy that my tripod might as well be worthless as to holding the camera steady.

But once I stepped away from the parking lot, down the paved path, the shoulder of the ridge cut the wind in half. Then even more. Nice. I set up the tripod.

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Zooming in on the Sleeping Ute’s crossed arms and moonset.

I made a series of shots in the tough contrast between bright moon and the mountain. In some of them I included the twinkling lights from the small city of Cortez below. It gave those shots a lot of context.

Moon going to sleep behind Sleeping Ute.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Moonset and Sleeping Ute

Full Moon setting at dawn over Sleeping Ute Mountain in southwest Colorado.

Moonset at dawn, Totten Reservoir State Wildlife Area

At the time of the Full Moon each month, there is not only the anticipation of landscape photos featuring moonrise in the evening, but the next morning there is moonset, too.

For moonset at that time of the month, you have to be up and out there to your selected photo spot early. I almost missed mine this month, having turned off the alarm and dozed away. Waking to the sound of a robin starting to sing outside my window, meaning: it’s dawn, and you should have been up!

I scrambled out of bed, out of the apartment, and drove to Totten Reservoir, which I had previously scouted for its view of the North Rim of Mesa Verde, but also its view to Sleeping Ute Mountain across the lake.

It was breezy as I walked down from the parking lot to my chosen spot. Only to find a cloud of mosquitoes dancing in the lee of a Cottonwood tree. Not going to set up my tripod there! A few yards further down, the breeze was too stiff for the insects to get to me.

Then the almost-risen sun added streaks of pink and white from the east, overtop Sleeping Ute Mountain to the west. My reward for hustling out there.

Photo location: Totten Reservoir State Wildlife Area, Cortez, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Canyonlands Moonset

Church Rock, at Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah.

Church Rock, at Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah.

I was at the Canyonlands overlook in southeast Utah for this month’s Full Moon rise. The evening before Full Moon, that is. To strive for landscape photographs with the almost full moon rising before dark.

Yes, one could merge separate images of a landscape and a closeup of the moon in Photoshop into a single composition. It’s incredibly easy these days, and will continue to get even more brain-dead simple. Which is one reason why I’m not interested in doing that. I use Photoshop and Lightroom for all my image processing, but not in that way.

The reason isn’t ethics or creativity or whatever label you care to assign. It’s about being out there. Outside, in nature, to see what you can experience this time. It’s a treasure hunt–and the treasure might be hunting you. Your attention, your realization.

The evening started with the afternoon. I veered off the known road for one of the side roads. To see what sights it might display. I had lots of hours to spare, and the weather and sweet high desert air were both soothing and stimulating.

Cruising the red sand roads amongst the sagebrush and high desert skies.

Cruising the red sand roads amongst the sagebrush and high desert skies.

It was time to decide on a campsite. One with a great view of the La Sal Mountains to the east, over which the moon would rise somewhat before sunset. I arrived plenty early, unusually so. I set up my folding camp chair in the shade of a Utah Juniper tree near the edge of the cliff, and resumed reading a book. Waiting.

La Sal Mountains moonrise panorama.

La Sal Mountains moonrise panorama.

Eventually the moon appeared, faintly, above the mountain horizon. Haze on the eastern skyline made it harder to notice until it was well above the slopes. By that time it was so far southeast of the main peaks of the La Sals that I decided to make a series of overlapping images to merge into high resolution panorama image in Photoshop later.

It was the best I could do under the circumstances. The tail end of a lovely day in the high desert springtime. I settled in to sleep.

At dawn, I peered up at the bright moon as it silently continued its arc to the southwest horizon. I roused myself.

Most people don’t consider moonset. Heck, most don’t consider moonrise, until it slaps them in the face one night, once in a while.

With moonset, the opportunities for landscape photography are greatly expanded. Most importantly, it’s already up in the sky, you don’t have to calculate or guess where it will appear. And, emotionally, it looks much like moonrise. It’s just the other end of the arc. The full moon above the landscape at one end of the day.

You merely have to get up really early. A deal breaker for many people. That’s where I come in. Well, most of the time. Enough of the time. Usually.

I threw my outside the-camp-belongings into the vehicle and headed toward the west rim of the peninsula. Overlooking Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. I approached a viewpoint I’d made note of on the drive north but hadn’t actually visited in the few times I’d been here. The time to visit seemed to be now.

Moonset pancake, Anticline Overlook road, Utah.

Moonset pancake, Anticline Overlook road, Utah.

It was like a flat cake of sandstone layers sitting above the plateau. A road was built out to it, and around it, for a circular viewpoint. It occurred to me that, had I been engineering roads there, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to build one around that piece of rock. Maybe out to the edge of it, yes. But around it? Though lots of things don’t occur to me that probably should.

Whatever. The moon was setting over Canyonlands, and the sun was soon rising onto them. I would have been quite satisfied with the day, given such a gorgeous beginning.

Moonset over Colorado River canyon lands south of Moab, Utah.

Moonset over Colorado River canyon lands south of Moab, Utah.

As it turned out, the day was far from done. But that’s another story.

Photo location: San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Moonset, Beginning of the Day

Moonrise at dawn, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

The April Full Moon happened to occur precisely at 12:57 on Thursday. In other words, 1 PM, the middle of the day. Not very useful for taking evocative landscape moonrise photos, especially since it was only visible at the time on the other side of the world. By the time it had risen over the hills on my side of the globe it was well past dark.

But! That also meant that the only-slightly-past-full moon would set the following morning slightly after sunrise. When there was plenty of light. It would look just as full.

So I headed out at first light. Out the dusty Perkinsville Road from Chino Valley, into the north end of Lonesome Valley. I had a spot in mind that should provide a great view. Fortunately I was right this time. From the base of Nipple Butte I could look down on Was A Pair Butte, the valleys, and distant Granite Mountain all at once.

In this photo, sunrise is near enough that the Earth’s shadow is visible, making a lovely blue-to-magenta gradation. Soon I would also be to get shots and video of the first rays of the sun on the scene. Quite a beginning.

Photo location: Yavapai County, north of Prescott, Arizona.