Some years ago I was driving home from an afternoon excursion into the beautiful rural areas of Minnesota during the fall harvest. The sun eventually sank below the corn fields and the evening sky took over as the moon rose.
There was a delay in our travel home while I stopped and took pictures of this unusual composition: the moon in a twilight sky behind the steeple of a local church and its cemetery. I don’t believe there was a guiding hand directing me to that place and time, but I recognize a unique moment when I am in it.
In the years since, I have attempted to capture the moon in this magic moment, but it turns out to be a difficult project. I recently learned why at a seminar led by Mike Shaw, one of the pioneers in making modern nightscape photos. His advice and recommendations led me to try this composition on the St Croix River, the optimal timing being one day before the full moon.
The new bridge over the river was a long time in the planning, and long overdue for replacing the old lift bridge that chronically clogged the traffic in Stillwater. The old bridge is now dedicated to pedestrians and bicycles; the new bridge hosts walkways and overlooks, making for a pleasant “loop trail” from Minnesota to Wisconsin and back.
I practiced the photo shoot for several days prior to the key event and witnessed lots of fishing and boating activities on the river. I also watched big river boats taking their passengers out for dinner cruises, returning after sunset. The beautiful fall weather held, and I was able to once again photograph the rising harvest moon dressed in the beautiful colors of twilight.
I assembled a time lapse of the experience. It’s a one-minute sequence. I hope you enjoy it.
There was a second wide spot in the road at the south end of the playa; we parked and continued our explorations. This time we found stones sitting on the surface of the lakebed. There were not many, and we had to hike a mile or so to find them. Some sat happily contemplating their position in the uniform semi-infinite plane of mud cracks. Others showed a faint trail of disturbed, and now solidified mud, leading to their current position. These were the famous sailing stones!
Even as one exits daily life, its anxieties drag along. I headed west on highway 12, a route that could take me to Montana and beyond. The interval between rural Minnesota towns was a consistent five miles, a day’s round trip in the days of horse-driven vehicles. Although I had no need or desire to stop, I found these distances between oases of civilization annoying–my progress seemed so slow. As I crossed into South Dakota however, and the distances started getting longer, I found my tempo slowing to match. The rhythm of the car on the pavement was beginning to seem more natural. I had no appointments or obligations, other than my desire to reach Washington for the Table Mountain Star Party. And even that was not an obligation, I could change my plans at will!
Go west! Ride the road and make my plans on the run. I could go as far as I wanted, stop where I felt like it, and make my way, my way. And like the title of the book by William Least Heat-Moon, I was traveling the blue highways. Except by the conventions of today’s maps, the lesser traveled roads are marked in red, not blue. The two-lane roads serviced the rural business, farms and ranches, and the segments between the small-town hives of activities became longer as the hives themselves became smaller.
It had been a late night with an unexpected adrenaline rush at the end, and so it was predictable that after finally settling down, I would sleep well into the next morning. After showering and shaving, the next order of business was to upload the photos from my digital camera and assess my success at the guided exposures from last night.
Unfortunately, my laptop did not recognize any of the raw
(.CR2) image files from the camera’s memory card! This was a setback since I was planning to
copy the images to the computer, and then reuse the memory card (I only had two
of them and the second was filling rapidly).
I am staying at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta Arizona. It is not your usual traveler’s stopping place that I have become accustomed to in my business travels. It is an attractive contemporary adobe building, tastefully appointed with beautiful Navajo art and artifacts. Gentle native music is piped to the public areas. An interesting Navaho outdoor exhibit is also well presented. The native American flavor is augmented by modern conveniences—full breakfast, wireless internet, pool, patio, and an attractive and comfortable lobby.