On Tuesday morning when I awoke, I looked west to see the full moon setting and the sky beginning to take on a rosy hue. I knew that a full moon near the horizon at sunrise or sunset is a perfect photo opportunity, so I immediately started preparing to head outdoors.
Now as much as I enjoy seeing the full moon high in the sky, I find photos of the moon by itself a little bit, er, boring. There isn’t any way to change perspective (unless you leave earth) so the only other way to add variety is to include the moon as part of a larger scene. But it’s hard to get an interesting composition at night because the moon is so bright (reflecting the sun’s light) and everything else is black in comparison. If, for example, you want to create a scene of city lights at night with the full moon rising overhead, either the city will disappear or you will overexpose the moon. So, unless you want to combine two different exposures in post-processing, the only way to include the full moon in a scene is to time it for when there is some light on the landscape. Like just before sunrise!
So, back to pre-sunrise on Tuesday. Our city had been hit by a bad winter storm a couple of days before – heavy snow followed by heavy rain followed by a heavy freeze – as you can imagine, very unpleasant weather! The freeze was still in effect, but I had been indoors for two days and I needed to get out. However, the temperature was -36 Celsius with windchill (*see note below), so I dressed in several warm layers, starting with long underwear and finishing with a scarf wrapped twice around my face. I took my XT2 with my 55-200mm lens, a tripod and my shutter release cable.
My next challenge was getting to a good location to view the moon. Because of the thick layer of ice that coated everything, walking was treacherous. I decided to head up a small hill at the end of the street as I knew there would be room to set up the tripod in a parking lot. The ice was thick enough so I could walk without breaking the crust, and a light coating of snow that had fallen overnight helped with traction. That is, except when I crossed a neighbour’s icy driveway; fortunately, I managed to slide my way to the other side without falling. At the top of the hill, I turned toward the parking lot and discovered another sheet of ice. That’s far enough, I thought, and perched the tripod precariously on a snowbank instead.
As I set up the camera, I noticed something unusual – the traffic was moving exceedingly slowly. Normally cars speed along the busy street, but today they were almost tiptoeing down the hill, a sign that the city hadn’t yet succeeded in melting or scraping the ice off the roads. I shuddered at the thought of driving, and turned back to the camera, taking several photos of the moon and the hillside just below it.
It wasn’t until later, when I looked at the images on my computer at home, that I saw how fast the colours changed – the rosy pinks yellowed then thinned out to nothing as the sun rose higher. You can see the colour difference between the top two photos, taken less than five minutes apart.
The bitter wind was stinging my cheek bones by the time I decided to pack up. I unclamped my camera from the tripod and turned around, and then I remembered the advice I had given in the last blog post: look the other way! The sky was gorgeous and golden in the east, and I had almost missed it! Yes, here comes the sun, peaking between a couple of buildings on the horizon.
I quickly popped the camera back on the tripod and captured the traffic and the light and the sun as it began to rise above the city, reflecting off the passing cars and making the snow shimmer. When I headed home, walking gingerly down the icy hill, the sunrise colours had given way to the bright light of a beautiful day.
*p.s. Apparently I remembered the temperature wrong. It was -16 plus windchill which equals -26, not -36. Oops. Anyway, it was cold.